Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Additional Thoughts on TIFF 2012 Ticketing Changes

Some pros and cons of the new changes for ticketing for TIFF 2012:


  • Ticket prices by and large seem to be in line with last year (although see the comments below for discussions on where they do differ); one main area still unclear is the exact pricing for the flex packs; I asked a TIFF staffer, and she didn't know what the exact breakdown would be yet.
  • Ability to get up to 4 tickets per screening in My Choice packages, instead of just 1
  • New ticket package to select Premium screenings through the advance ticketing process
  • New flexible packages to get 20 to 100 tickets in 10-ticket increments
  • Can see immediately which tickets are available during the advance ticketing process, giving you more opportunities to select alternative screenings if your first choice is sold out
  • Appears that your start time for advance ordering could occur at any time, not necessarily something that may be convenient to you
  • If you don't log in as soon as you can, screenings that may have been available at that time could be sold out by the time you do get on
  • You only have one shot, and only one hour, to make your selections, so you better be organized
  • Will the system actually stand up under the load?
  • Will there end up being a crush of people all trying to log in during the evening because their start times occurred during the day?
  • If you get booted before you can actually check out, you could just end up with a pile of vouchers that you'll have to manually redeem. If you've experienced the old ordering system, this was a not-uncommon occurrence when the system was busy
A number of people seem to be cheering the move online, but I'm not sure their expectations are actually in line with how TIFF implemented the process. As outlined above, there's some pros to this approach, but the whole start time and limited window concept is going to throw people once they actually understand how the process works.

I've also seen a few comments, including from TIFF, that people think this online system will eliminate long lines. The old advance ordering process never really had any long lines in terms of getting your schedule or selecting your films or turning in your orders; it was once tickets were selected and exchanges were allowed that lines occurred, but that isn't going to change under the new system. And you're still going to have lines at the box office when individual tickets go on sale; once again, this new system isn't going to solve that problem either.


One important change: the old daytime pass has been severely downgraded--selection begins on September 3rd, 1 day after the single tickets go on sale. This is a blow to seniors on limited resources (and there are no price breaks in any of the packages for seniors), and will be a shock to those who upgraded to a higher level membership so that they could get priority selection. The September 3rd date is firm for the day pass.

I don't agree with you that prices are in line with last year. Other than the 10-pack and Back-Half-Pack, all ticket packages have increased substantially:

In 2011 a 50-film pack was $524; in 2012 it is 53% higher.

In 2011 a 30-film pack was $386; in 2012 it is 24% higher.

In 2011 a 20-film daytime pack was $170; in 2012 it is 12% higher.

Moreover, as Annette noted, last year students and seniors could get these packages at a 15% discount, for them the price increase this year is even greater.

I realize that the 30- and 50-packs last year had the limitation of one ticket per screening, but they were ideal for an individual who liked seeing three or four films a day during the festival. This year, TIFF decided to surprise those high-volume film-watchers with price increases of 24% or 53%.

Fair enough, on looking at the 2011 prices, there are increases in the My Choice packages. As Annette mentioned, there don't appear to be any senior/student discounts anymore on the My Choice Packages or the Back Half Pack (although there are on the TIFF Choice Packages and prices have remained steady since 2011, although Wavelengths is up in general even accounting for the one additional screening).

I don't know if your 30/50 film calculations would be accurate yet, though. It appears you're just doing straight math on multiples of the 10-ticket package, but since the top end is only $1,200, there is likely a reduction in prices the more you buy, but until we see actual prices I don't think we know how much higher or not prices might be for the Flex Pack.

Individual ticket prices are the same as 2011 with one exception; premium screenings for seniors are up about $4.

Oops, you're right, I misunderstood the flexpack pricing. They imply that the per-ticket price declines from $16 on a 20-pack to $12 on a 100-pack. But surely they ought to list the prices explicitly! Have they really not decided yet on the exact prices for each multiple of 10?

Assuming (until we know for sure) a linear decrease in Flex Pack pricing, we're looking at $14/ticket for 50 films --> $700! That's a big increase from $524 ($10.48/ticket). Even if two 50-film goers combine on one account to purchase a 100 Film Flex Pack (that's my plan this year), they'll be set back $600 each. Plus taxes, ugh.

I'm figuring 30 tickets will go for $15 each --> $450.

Well, happy to say that my assumption was wrong. The Box Office told me the following:

- 10-20 tix: $16 each
- 30: $15
- 40: $14
- 50 or more: $12

So, not quite as bad as I predicted for the 50-packers -- but not exactly joyous news, either.

One other bit that was mentioned: Back Half pkgs are limited to 4 (and confirmed they meant pkgs and not just tickets per film within a pkg). Hadn't seen that mentioned anywhere yet.

What I hate is that the Visa Screening Room tickets, which used to be accessible through the 10-ticket coupon packs, are now part of the Premium Packages. Now you are paying $40-50 per ticket not just for the "Galas" but also for the Special Presentations at the Elgin Theatre.

Last year, at least they had an offer where you could pick two designated Visa Screening timeslots for a more affordable price.

I find the Special Presentations to be among the more reliable films in the festival -- more "artsy" than the Galas, but not as bizarre as some of the other categories.

I hope we'll at least get a chance to pick up the 2nd and 3rd run SPs at the regular theatres.

I think this creates a split within the festival between filmgoers with deep pockets and the rest of us. Toronto has always been known as the "people's festival." But with these price hikes, I fear it may be selling out to the glitz of red carpet.

The reality is, TIFF thought the Lightbox would be hugely profitable year-round, that the Festival crowds would keep crowding in winter, spring, and summer, but that didn't happen so now they need to raise prices on Festival tickets in order to subsidize the Lightbox the rest of the year. What they've done with Festival pricing the last few years, continuing this year, is try to squeeze more revenue from the high-demand screenings while still allowing regular-priced tickets for lower-demand screenings. It's basic microeconomics. The big losers this year are the "daytime" festival-goers. Previously, you could buy a daytime pass and you'd make your selections in the same lottery as the more expensive packages. But this year, daytime package buyers can't make their selections until September 3, which is after single tickets have already gone on sale. In effect, TIFF is saying, you're getting a good price on the daytime pack, so we are going to exclude you from the popular screenings. Everyone else (paying a higher per-ticket price) will be given the chance at tickets to all those daytime screenings, before daytime-package buyers. That's true even for TIFF "contributors" who might have donated $300 expecting it would give them priority in selecting their tickets even for the daytime package.

I agree with the comment above. Not only that, year over year there seem to be fewer and fewer daytime picks.

I, for one, take time off of work to see the films, but I'm lucky if there are 3-4 decent morning films to choose from. Is it just my imagination?

With family commitments, my evenings and weekends are full so I rely on the daytime movies.

I understand that most "hip" moviegoers like to party all night and sleep in. But there are some of us who have to squeeze in films whenever we can. What's so bad about 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday?

I agree with the above regarding daytime passes! The Festival has been a sure week off of work for me for over a decade now. The limited weekday selection was most noticeable to me last year and I hope that I haven't made a mistake expecting to be able to pick 20 daytime films after everyone else makes their choices this year. I also no longer feel as though this is the 'people's festival' with these changes in addition to watching those with enough money to be a 'contributor' get special treatment. I have a feeling that I'll be working Festival time next year.

I've been buying the daytime pass for years and taking time off from work, but I'm also pretty certain this will be my last year.

It's one thing if TIFF is going to exclude Daytime ticket holders from all the popular films, but they have been reducing the number of daytime screening more and more each year, that even if you have a voucher you can't use it. (or you are having to watch some pretty obscure stuff)

There are weekdays when they only have two or three 9-10am screenings - some days don't have any!

They should really change the name of the pass from "Daytime 20 ticket" pass to "Daytime 20 vouchers go stand in the rush lines and btw we've greatly reduced the number of daytime screening good luck sucker" pass.

"What I hate is that the Visa Screening Room tickets, which used to be accessible through the 10-ticket coupon packs, are now part of the Premium Packages."

Maybe the 10 pack is different, but my Flex 40 allowed me to pick 3 showings at the Visa Screening Room... Maybe they're not ALL special presentations?

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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