Movieline is to add Internet movie ticket sales to its existing telephone ticketing and information lines in December, just in time for the peak Christmas and school holiday period. Up to 250,000 tickets are expected to be sold in the first year of what will be Australia's first nation-wide online ticketing service.

"We expect sales to grow significantly and our business model shows a positive return on the capital outlay in three to five years," said Movieline Internet manager Ben Scott, adding that about 20% of current telephone sales are likely to be cannibalised. "Our key aim is to provide customers with a positive experience, which means building a ticketing system that is fast, simple and secure to use."

Unique World will design, build and manage the system following yesterday's signing of a two-year contract, with an option to renew. It had to fight off a number of competing e-commerce solutions providers, including the six that were short-listed for the job, during the four-month evaluation period.

Since Movieline was launched in 1999, it has sold about 200,000 tickets per year by telephone to 101 cinema sites, representing about 80,000 individual sales. It charges $0.80 (A$1.50) per ticket on sales and, using a separate telephone number, provides information at a cost of $0.44 per minute.

Movieline is a joint venture between Australia's three major exhibitors, Hoyts, Village and sister companies Greater Union and Birch Carroll and Coyle. As of June 30, Australia had 1,831 screens at 559 sites, of which 987 screens at 113 sites carried the brand of one of these majors. They hold interests in many more screens, however. Annual admissions last year in Australia were about 82 million and the average ticket price was $4.50 (A$8.40).