March 1, 2017
$1,200 'Assassin's Creed' Movie Tickets: Good Marketing Or Weak Gimmick?

Assassin's Creed hits movie theaters in December, but tickets for the movie are already on sale now.

Let that sink in -- the Assassin's Creed movie is still nine months away, but pre-order tickets to the movie are available for purchase right now. The big question here is: why?

Pre-sales on movie tickets are not something new. Ticket pre-sales are common, especially for big-name movies. What is odd here is that ticket pre-sales have never been more than a few months ahead of the film's release. According to Quora, most movie tickets are available between one to 10 days in advance. Occasionally, a major release will sell tickets a few months in advance and this is usually predicated by when theaters start posting showtimes. For example, tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a highly anticipated movie with huge demand, went on sale in October 2015, only two months before the movie opened.

What makes Assassin's Creed different is that these super-early pre-sales are not being offered by standard ticket outlets and box offices. The movie ticket pre-orders are being handled in a joint venture between Ubisoft and Kernel. Kernel is a company that specializes in motion picture marketing, specifically pre-orders and packaged offers. In this particular case, Ubisoft will be providing movie-related merchandise and Kernel will be packaging and selling that merchandise bundled with a ticket to the movie. So really it's not so much that you are buying a movie ticket as you are buying merchandise with a movie ticket included.

These packaged bundles range in price from $15 all the way up to a wallet-busting $1,200. Kernel lists the following packages on their official Assassin's Creed product page.
  • Movie Ticket + Collector's Watch + Digital Script + Aguilar & Maria Temporary Tattoos -- $15
  • T-Shirt + Movie Ticket + Digital Script -- $25
  • McFarlane Toys Aguilar Hidden Blade + Movie Ticket + Digital Script -- $60
  • Official Assassin's Creed Hoodie + Movie Ticket + Digital Script -- $120
  • Aguilar Premiere Scale Statue + Movie Ticket + Digital Script -- $600
  • Spanish Crossbow from Ubi Workshop + Movie Ticket + Digital Script -- $1,200
A movie ticket runs around $10, so the T-shirt and watch packages work out to about $15 and $5 respectively for the merchandise, which is not unreasonable for some standard memorabilia. However, the rest of the packages are clearly geared for hardcore fans of the game. Only rich gamers will be purchasing the crossbow replica and the statuette. For the fourth package, when you take out the cost of the movie ticket, the buyer is looking at a $110 hoodie, which seems steep.
There is also the fact that these packages will not ship until December. Paying for a T-shirt, licensed or otherwise, but not owning it until nine months later seems strange. This type of marketing works well with video games because usually the merchandise one receives with the game is of lesser value than the game itself. So the main article being purchased in the package is the game with the merchandise as a bonus.

The Assassin's Creed movie packages are different, however, in that the main article (the one with the most value) seems to be the merchandise with the movie ticket as a bonus. Why should one have to wait for merchandise that already exists just because the movie that came as a bonus with it does not open until later? The point of it all seems vague. Are they marketing the movie or the merchandise?

Pre-orders of this nature are unusual for motion pictures and the effectiveness of the idea seems questionable. If this marketing concept gains ground at all, it will likely have a different dynamic than the way it works in the video game industry. The Verge points out that what may be effective for games may not work so well with movies.

"Video game publishers mastered the dark art of the pre-order long ago. In return for an extra in-game costume or some cheaply made bric-a-brac, a publisher can net thousands of sales ahead of (potentially negative) reviews, and maybe in the process make extra cash off merchandise... Just think movie fans: this could be the new normal. Imagine an Avengers screening that only shows the after credits sequence to those who pre-ordered tickets."
Whether this marketing method will be successful remains to be seen. Odds are that with the limited time offers on the cheaper packages and the limited supply of the more expensive items, the sale of these pre-orders is not likely to add too much to the box office totals, but maybe that's not the point. Maybe Ubisoft is just trying to cash in on some Assassin's Creed merchandise and is using the movie just to get everybody's attention.

[Image via Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed) | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0 ]