Friday, January 20, 2006

Ticket Tactics for the Sundance Film Festival

You can’t see a movie without a ticket. Fortunately, there are plenty of options. Here’s my list:

* Purchase an unrestricted pass. This is the coolest way to go because you can waltz right in to any movie and you get a cool picture ID badge to hang around your neck and if you’ve got a few thousand to blow this separates you from the riff-raff. There are other, less expensive passes as well, but none of them are cheap.

* Purchase ticket packages on the web. You have to pre-register for these and it can all be done online. But if you don’t already have one, you’re too late. Remember next year not to procrastinate. (Right, and to eat healthier and quit interrupting.)

* Buy “Locals Only” tickets. These are well-priced and the best way to go. The only downside is that you have to live in Utah. You know, some of us actually like that!

* Purchase individual tickets at the Sundance Box Office or online. By the time you read this hardly anything is left—maybe documentaries and foreign films at 8:30 on Wednesday morning. You can check on the website. Still, sometimes you are pleasantly surprised at how good the movie is. And sometimes you’re not.

* Day of Show tickets. Every morning at 8:00 at the Park City and Salt Lake City box offices there are tickets for sale that day. The morning lines are long, the time of day is terrible and the more popular movies usually aren’t available. But if you’re not real picky, you can usually get tickets to something. And if you’re really early in line, you’ll often get one you want. I’ll be honest, I’ve never done this.

* Ticket Swaps. I’m not sure if they are doing it this year, but there is usually a place to post ticket availabilities at the main box offices. Sometimes you might get lucky. It helps to have grown up with baseball cards.

* EBay. I’ve looked at these before. My impression was that they were way over-priced.

* Waitlist Tickets. An hour before each movie at the venue they pass out waitlist numbers. Unfortunately, the line for these usually starts more than an hour before. I’ve often had pretty good luck with this approach, even a half hour before the movie if it’s not too popular. The downsides: (1) Some lines are outside (like the Eccles Center), which in Park City can be cold. (2) You definitely feel like riff-raff standing in line while the better-heeled walk right in. (3) If you do stand in line for over an hour and don’t get a ticket it can really sour your attitude.

* Scalping. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to do this and you’ve got to be able to handle rejection well, but I’ve found that if you’re naturally aggressive you can be remarkably successful. People will often have extra tickets to sell, especially if you only need one. (Since the tickets are not for a particular seat, you can get two, one by one.) By the way, I’ve never heard of anyone selling a ticket at the venue for more than face value. Occasionally people will just give them away.

* Sneak in. I’ve never seen anyone actually do this, but I’m sure it’s been done. This is not recommended. I've heard that if you get caught they make you watch Icelandic movies until you're so depressed you don't want to go on living.

* Talk to people. At every movie, on the shuttles, in lines, at the restaurant, etc. talk to people. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of the festival. Ask them what they’ve seen and what they have liked. Compare notes. And casually mention that you are looking for more tickets. I’ve gotten some great tickets like this, especially from big groups.

* Get a Press Pass. Try writing reviews for a small, off-beat newspaper. Then plead your case to the Sundance powers. It’s been done before. I know the paper in Paducah, Kentucky doesn't have a regular Sundance reporter.

* Make a Movie. This is one of the more difficult ways to get in and costs a lot more than ten bucks. But it’s definitely the coolest route.

My approach? I usually get a couple of local packages to start with. Then, over the course of the show, I have certain movies I decide to see. I’ll usually go and get a number at the venue, then go to the parking lot and do my best imiation of a hot dog vendor. I’d say my success rate is over 75%.

Hardest tickets to get: Weekend evening premieres with the big stars. (And I’ve always felt this was silly, because these are the films that almost surely will get picked up for distribution.) These are usually at the Eccles Center, which is the most challenging venue to get tickets to.

Easiest tickets to get: Always the second weekend because the glitterati have ventured to the next high-profile place. Always early morning, because people have a tendency to party late, then decide that 8:30 documentary on the Afghanistan war really isn’t a must-see. Foreign films and documentaries.

While it’s certainly preferable to purchase your tickets in advance, if you have a flexible schedule, are not too picky and are willing to work at it, you can walk into Sundance with nary a ticket and still see plenty of movies.


Post a Comment

<< Home