NEW YORK (TheStreet) - While Season Four of the popular series doesn't start until Sunday, April 6, Time Warner's (TWX) HBO ramping up fan excitement with a several interactive initiatives leading up to the date and beyond. If you were lucky enough to get in early, or as some fans have said, by calling, tickets were just $15. However, despite 7,000 tickets being released through Live Nation's (LYV) Ticketmaster Web site, the Barclays tickets were sold out in just 30 minutes.
Game of Thrones fan frenzy picked up speed on Thursday following the release of tickets to the general population for the HBO Game of Thrones: The Epic Fan Experience being held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on March 20.
That leaves angry Facebook fans who had hoped to get in on the action. For one, American Express (AXP) customers were able to purchase seats one day early. Also, there's a section devoted to New York University students, according to Ticketmaster.
But what's really drawing ire by fans is the black market that has been created for the tickets on eBay (EBAY) and its subsidiary Stub Hub, considering the net proceeds for the Ticketmaster bought tickets would be donated to two charities: Nothing But Nets and Books for Africa. On eBay, tickets are running from $80 each to $1,320 for four tickets in prime seating, according to the site. On StubHub tickets are running anywhere from $73.50 to more than $5000 for seating, at last check.
An HBO spokeswoman says there are no plans to release extra tickets or create another showing.
And that's all happening without knowing exactly what "The Epic Fan Experience" really is, though, with the addition of the early showing, it sounds similar to last year's Game of Thrones: The Exhibition. HBO said in a release the "experience" will debut the first episode of Season Four and will "also include show costumes and props displays from the acclaimed traveling exhibition, photo ops on the Iron Throne and other special surprises."
Fans are likely eager to see how Season Four stacks up, following the horrific and shocking (for those who haven't read George R.R. Martin's books) finale scenes of last season.
This season starts the second half of Martin's third book in the series, A Storm of Swords. Last year's finale ended with the epic Red Wedding scene, where two main characters were killed off in what was supposed to be a wedding to complete an alliance between the Starks and the Frey's. Instead, the Frey's showed their allegiance to House Lannister by killing Robb Stark (Richard Madden), known as the King of the North, and his mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), which essentially destroyed the Northerners quest for vengeance following the beheading of Ned Stark in Season One.
(If you don't have a vague clue about what I'm talking about, get watching the first three seasons on HBOGO.)
Season Four picks up in the ashes of that battle, along with a zillion other things going in in Westeros, at The Wall and across the Narrow Sea where Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is raising her three dragons, building a kingdom and learning how to rule as she prepares to one day retake the Iron Throne and return it to the Targaryen family name.
The show has been a massive success for HBO, winning Emmy and Golden Globe awards, so it's no surprise that fans are eager to experience all things Game of Thrones. The gross audience for Game of Thrones Season 3 was 14.4 million viewers, roughly 24% higher than the second season and 54% higher than its gross audience in its first season, a spokeswoman said.
HBO says Game of Thrones is HBO's most watched series since The Sopranos.
"Game of Thrones has become a truly global sensation thanks to the show's incredibly dedicated and loyal fans," said Zach Enterlin, senior vice president of HBO's advertising and promotion, said in a March 4 press release announcing the Barclays event. "To create an event that matches the excitement of the viewers and the epic scale of this series, we knew we had to do something really special. A fan screening of this size, at a venue like Barclays Center, feels like the perfect way to celebrate the new season of Game of Thrones."
This year, HBO re-launched the tour with more stops, on top of the five international cities from last year. HBO extended the exhibit to New York City; Mexico City, Mexico; South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; Rio de Janeiro, Oslo, Norway; Toronto; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Vancouver.
(The tour is currently stopped in Austin for South by Southwest.)
Earlier this week, HBO also launched a mix tape of Game of Thrones songs as an "additional fan touch point."
Catch The Throne: The Mixtape includes exclusive tracks from artists including Wale, Big Boi, Common and Daddy Yankee, in addition to songs from up-and-coming artists Snow Tha Product, Bodega Bamz, Magazeen and others. The hip-hop and reggaeton, 10-song mix tape is inspired by the show's themes and storylines from the first three seasons.
"As superfans of the acclaimed series, the artists created songs that encourage and inspire listeners who may not have been immersed in the storylines to catch up on previous seasons of Game of Thrones using HBOGO," HBO said in a March 5 release. The free Catch The Throne: The Mixtape will be available for download at SoundCloud beginning today.
Downloading the mix tape may not be the same as seeing The Epic Fan Experience, but for most fans, it will have to do.
--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.