The Festival outlined a number of changes to improve service for this year's festival, including:
- All Gala films will have at least one screening accessible to Festival, Daytime, and 10-ticket Package holders, subject to availability. This was a problem last year, when there were 8 films that screened only at Roy Thomson Hall or the Visa Screening Room and thus could not be selected by package holders who did not have a gala or Visa Screening Room pass.
- Package holders will have increased access to the Visa Screening Room. This apparently is being accomplished by having about half the screenings at the Visa Screening Room be regular public screenings, while the other half or so will be premium public screenings. Last year, you could not see films at the Visa Screening Room unless you had the Visa Screening Room pass, or bought individual premium tickets.
- Reduction of wait times for advance order pickups. The Festival is searching out an appropriate location that meets their "needs for traffic flow and access for all box-office functions." This might mean not using the Toronto Life Square location for the advance order pickup like last year. On pickup day on September 3, there will be increased hours of operation, and they will be doubling the number of operators available for the ticket exchange process.
- Distinct criteria for premium screenings. Premium screenings will always be the first showing of a film at Roy Thomson Hall or the Visa Screening Room, and have at least one of the following three criteria: be a red carpet event; be at least a North American premiere; include a Q&A with either a director or a principal cast member. Note that the majority of films will have their first screening in a non-premium venue, and many will have a Q&A, even in subsequent screenings.
- Individual ticket sales will begin on September 4, 6 days before the start of the festival.
- The film schedule will be released on August 25, and Advance Orders are not due until August 31 at 1:00 PM, which is three days more than last year.
- Completed Advance Orders will be available for pickup in September 3 (note, this is a Thursday and not a holiday), before the Labour Day long weekend.
It sounds like the Festival has listened to the feedback coming out of last year's event, especially around the Visa Screening Room. It will be interesting to see how the Advance Order process will work for films there, since package holders will be able to see some, but not all films at the Visa Screening Room (i.e. premium screenings there will still require individual tickets or one of the Visa Screening Room passes). The additional package types for the Visa Screening Room provide a fair bit of variety and do seem to make things more accessible.
Hopefully the venue chosen for Advance Order pickup will facilitate the pickup process better this year. The one main problem at the Toronto Life Square location in the early part of last year was people cutting in line, since the line started at street level but the box office was three flights of escalators up. By the end of the festival, they had instituted a system that cut down on people cutting in.
Having additional time for the ordering process and having the long weekend free are both a plus, although I think that may be due in part to the date on which Labour Day falls this year (it's a lot later than normal). Hopefully this will persist into future years as well. On the downside, you will now need to take a vacation day for Advance Order pickup if you expect to have to do ticket exchanges.