Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Do I Buy Tickets for TIFF 2010? - Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts on how to buy tickets for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This post describes how the Advance Order Procedure works. This post has been updated for the 2010 process.

You can participate in the Advance Order Procedure if you buy one of the following "My Choice" ticket packages:

  • 50-Film Pack
  • 30-Film Pack
  • 25-Film Daytime Pack
  • 15-Film Daytime Pack
  • 10-Ticket Flex Pack

When you buy one of these packages, you should receive in the mail an Envelope voucher, a Drop Off voucher and a Pick Up voucher, provided you bought before August 6, 2010 (if you didn't you will have to pick them up from the Festival Box Office). If you bought a Programme Book, you will also receive a voucher for that as well. The Programme Book is a large book with a detailed description and photo for each film in the festival. It is not necessary to buy this book to complete the Advance Order Procedure, as all the information is available in other formats and on the festival web site, but it is convenient to flip through offline, plus it makes a nice souvenir.

A picture of previous Programme Books is below:

And here's what the book looks like inside:

Starting at 7:00 AM on August 24, 2010, you can go to the Festival Box Office at 363 King Street West (King and Peter Streets) to pick up your order form. Note that on the first day there will be a line, and it can take over 45 minutes to get through it, especially if you show up first thing in the morning, so plan your day accordingly. Note you don't actually have to line up first thing on the 24th, as you can pick up your order form at any time after that as long as the completed form is returned before 1:00 PM on August 30, 2010.

If you don't live in Toronto and bought the Courier Film Selection Service, the festival will send everything to you via FedEx; note you must return your completed order by FedEx by August 27, 2010, 5:00 PM local time.

If you go to the box office in person to pick up your order, before getting in any line, track down the festival volunteer usually at the head of the line, and verify that the line is the correct one for you to be in (you can identify the volunteers by their headsets or festival t-shirts). The festival doesn't always have someone at the end of the line telling people what the line is for. There will likely be at least two lines; one for order form pickup, and one for people to buy ticket packages or get their vouchers if they didn't receive them in the mail.

Make sure you have your Envelope voucher (and optionally your Programme Book voucher) with you when you go to pick up the order form. You will not be able to get anything without the vouchers. When you get to the front of the line, turn in those vouchers and make sure you receive an order envelope, the Advance Order Book, and a copy of the Official Film Schedule, as you will need all three to complete your order.

It used to be that if you bought a programme book, then while supplies lasted, you would get a tote bag filled with a number of promotional items and the programme book. This year they were not giving out tote bags, but apparently you get something later in the process (e.g. maybe on ticket pickup), but that's not entirely clear yet. Check this post (http://tifftalk.blogspot.com/2009/08/2009-programme-book-gift-bag.html) for details on what was in the 2009 tote bag.

So, the next step is to fill out the order. Make sure you have the following:

1. The Official Film Schedule.

2. The Advance Order Book:

3. A highlighter; this is optional, but does help to make your choices more visible to the ticket processors.

Let's consider an example where you want to see the film Windfall on one of the days of the festival, with a couple of friends of yours. The Advance Order Book looks as follows:

First, write the number of tickets you want in the box labeled "Qty" next to the name of the film. In this example, we want 3 tickets (because it will be yourself plus two friends). This will represent your first choice for this timeslot.

Next, highlight the name and time of the film with a highlighter, or circle them (either is fine). Do NOT highlight or obscure the barcode.

Next, find a film around the same time that will be your backup choice if your first choice is already full when they get around to processing your order form. Note this step is optional. If you do not specify a backup film and your first choice is full, you will receive a ticket voucher which you can redeem at a later date for another film at the festival. There is no fee to exchange tickets, provided you are participating in the Advance Order Procedure.

In this example, Poetry will be the backup choice. Below the entry for Windfall, in the 8 boxes next to the "2nd", write the 8-character event code for the 2nd choice film. In this case, the event code for Poetry is is 091018F2 (it's the code next to the film's title). Also write in the name of the backup movie in the "Title" box below the "2nd" boxes. Note that you cannot specify a different number of tickets for the backup; the festival will in this example assume you still want 3 tickets for the 2nd choice. Do not highlight the backup choice or fill in anything in that film's entry.

Your form should look as follows:

Repeat this process until you run out of coupons or choices. For example, if you ordered a 10-ticket Package, and you wanted 2 tickets for each film, you would select 5 1st choice films and optionally, 5 2nd choice backups.

Note the restrictions on your particular package when selecting films, to ensure your order is processed correctly:
  • 50-Film and 30-Film Packs: maximum of 1 ticket per screening.
  • 25-Film and 15-Film Daytime Packs: maximum of 1 ticket per screening beginning before 5:01 PM.
  • 10-Ticket Flex Pack: maximum of 4 tickets per screening, per account.

Note in all cases, you can select only Regular public screenings, not Premium screenings. In the Official Film Schedule, Premium screenings are indicated by 4 stars on the right-hand side of the timeblock for the screening.

In the example below, there are six Premium screenings shown. For old-timers, it is important to note that Premium screenings can now occur in theatres other than Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room. In this example, there are Premium screenings at Ryerson and at Isabel Bader.

The Advance Order Book should not contain any listings for Premium screenings, but it's worthwhile double checking as you fill your schedule out.

You can place all your choices in a single Advance Order Book, regardless of how many passes or packages you bought. If you bought 3 10-ticket Packages, then all 30 1st choices and all 30 2nd choices can go in the same book.

For any tickets that you choose not to use in the Advance Order Procedure, or any choices that can't be filled because the film is sold out, you will receive vouchers that you can use towards other films with availability. You can do this alternate selection on September 2 when you pick up your completed order, or during the festival itself.

When selecting films, don't forget to account for the following:

  • Films may not start or end on time.
  • Times in the schedule do not include time for Q&A sessions after the film if the director or actors are present.
  • You should account for travel time between theatres, as some are far apart from one another.

Once you have finished picking your films and filling out the Advance Order Book, ensure you fill out the information on the cover of the Advance Order Book. If you want the festival to call you in the event of any difficulties regardless of the time of day or night, you could place a note on the form, but that's not a guarantee the festival will call. Note they process orders around the clock, so they could call you in the middle of the night if you so note. Ensure you fill out your e-mail address (and make sure it's readable) if you want to receive an e-mail notification once your order is filled.

Once you have filled out that information, place the completed Advance Order Book in the envelope you received when you picked up your form:

Fill out the "Total Number of Tickets Requested in this Order" box at the top right of the envelope. If you have 3 10-film packages, then you would write 30 in this box.

Fill out the contact information on the envelope. If you include an e-mail address, then the festival should notify you by e-mail which of your choices were filled and which were not when they have finished processing your order. If you bought the package for someone else, ensure their name is also included on the form in the spot provided.

Take the Drop Off Voucher that you should have received in the mail a while ago and place it in the envelope window. Do NOT include the Pick Up Voucher; you need to keep that to pick up your completed order starting September 2, 2010 at 7:00 AM at the festival box office.

Do NOT seal the envelope; leave the flap open or tuck it in, but do not seal it.

Drop off the envelope at the Festival Box Office before 1:00 PM on August 30, 2010. If you do not turn in your envelope by 1:00 PM, then you will miss the lottery, and your form will be processed after everyone else's.

The festival staff then spends the time from the 30th to the 1st processing orders. You can then line up at the festival box office any time from September 2 at 7:00 AM onwards to pick up your completed forms and see what movies you received. Take your Pick Up vouchers with you to exchange them for your processed orders. If you receive an e-mail from the festival saying you got all your choices, then I would recommend that you do NOT show up first thing in the morning, as there will be long wait (Shannon the Movie Moxie spent 6-1/2 hours in line in 2007 to get her orders and make alternate selections). If you didn't receive all of your picks, then you should line up in the morning, as you will receive ticket vouchers in place of your missed picks. You can then move to another line to immediately use those vouchers to pick other films that are still available; alternatively, you can wait to use those vouchers during the festival.

Now, why don't you need to speed through getting your Advance Order Book completed as soon as possible? Because the festival has a lottery system to determine from what point they start processing orders. Therefore, there is no inherent benefit to getting your order forms returned early. Here's how the system works:

1. The festival starts with a whole bunch of empty boxes, numbered sequentially.

2. As people turn in their order forms, the forms are placed in the lowest numbered box that has room:

Here we can see completed forms being placed in box #1.

3. Once a box is full, forms are placed in the next available box, in this case box #2:

4. And once that box is full, they move to the next one, in this case box #3:

5. Once all forms have been received by the deadline, the festival has a bunch of filled, numbered boxes:

6. They then randomly draw a number from 1 to whatever the highest number box they have, in this example, 80. The number drawn represents the box number from which the festival starts processing orders. Assume for this example that 33 was the number drawn:

The festival starts processing the forms in box #33. Once they have processed all the forms in the box, they move to the next one in numerical order, in this case #34. They continue until they reach the highest numbered box, here #80. Once they finish with that box, they loop back around to box #1 and start moving upwards, until they reach the box one number before the one drawn (#32). The festival usually sends e-mails out letting you know which of your choices you have gotten.

At this point, all advanced orders have been processed and will be ready for pickup. In this example, if you were lucky enough to be in box #33, you would've gotten all your picks. But if you were in box #32, you probably won't get a lot of your picks. In that case, for each pick that wasn't fulfilled you typically receive a voucher which you can use to select a film from whatever still has tickets available. You can use vouchers coupons any time during the duration of the festival.

Festival patrons that donated at least $300 to the festival get processed before the other boxes mentioned above. And even amongst donors, the ones who contributed more money get priority over other donors.

Just for interest, the graph below gives you an idea of when people submitted their order forms in 2006:

The bulk seemed to drop their forms off in the final three hours or so before the deadline. In 2007, box 66 out of 75 was randomly drawn as the starting point. My friend and I had forms in boxes 21 and 49, and we didn't get only 3 out of the 60 films we selected (but then we didn't pick many big name films).

The next post in this series will talk about some of the different ways people pick the films they want to see, and some considerations around scheduling. The post after that will discuss what you actually do during the festival when you get to your screening, along with options if you couldn't get tickets in advance.


Excellent job laying out all the pieces that make up the Advance Ordering process. Nicely done!

Thanks so much for this. My 1st TIFF, and had no idea how this worked since the official site is so awful.

Hey. Thanks for this walkthrough. Definitely helps a bit.
I have a question though.
If for example I want to see Black Swan and I fill out a request for the Tues at 11AM showing, do I write under that entry as a 2nd Choice the Black Swan on Saturday in case it fills up, or does the 2nd choice have to be at that same time?

No, the 2nd choice doesn't have to be at the same time, so you should be able to write in a second screening on a different day like you mentioned.

Any tips on strategies re first and second choices?

I really want to see a particular film, so that I'm thinking of making it my first choice at its first screening and my second choice at the time of its second screening. - but I could conceivably end up with double the amount of tickets to see it, right? Is there a better approach to making sure I get it to see a particular film?

Im also confused about 2nd choices.
Im going with a friend and each of us has 10 tickets, so to be together well each request 5 films with 2 tickets.

Should we each make a total of 5 top picks, with 2nd choices right under, or make a bunch of single choices...
If we want a few movies specifically and we make them 1st choices on 2 separate packages what could we put in the 2nd choice that would not result in doubles?
Im beyond confused!
Thanks for any help

If you really want to see a particular movie, one strategy would be to pick one of the screenings and make that a first choice. Then backup that screening with a subsequent screening of that same film (your 2nd choice for a movie doesn't have to be at the same date/time). But I wouldn't pick another movie at the same time as the 2nd choice, as you could end up with two movies at the same time.

If there are two of you, both with 10-packs, and you want to see the same films, then the optimal solution would be for each person to pick 5 movies, requesting two tickets for each movie.

If instead you each separately pick the same movie and only request 1 ticket, then you could run into the problem that one of you gets a ticket, while the other one doesn't, even if you return your packages at close to the same time.

Since when did they move the "Form" drop-off from Fri 1pm to Mon 1pm? I can't believe I missed that fact.

They moved the drop off date to a Monday starting in 2008, from what I can see in my previous posts.

A further comment responding to anonymous-11:56am. There's two reasonable strategies for two of you with 10-packs. The first (and simpler) is to submit the two orders together; then they will be processed one right after the other.

The advanced strategy is to submit them at different times, say one in the middle of the dropoff period and the other right at the end. This increases the chance that at least one of the orders will be processed early.

Then if you have ten films that you want to see together, you have to predict which of the ten are likely to sell out and which won't. Suppose you think three films are likely sellouts, then on each of the orders you request two tickets to those three films (and two additional films). Other films which you think won't sell out, you don't request at all on your advance order form. Then when you pick up your tickets, you might well get duplicates for some of those you predicted would be sellouts; these you take back and exchange for the others that you predicted would not sell out.

Hey! Thank you so much for this!
I was just wondering if you knew which movies are sold out as of now :)

My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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