Both screenings at the Wisconsin Film Festival of <i>The Boss of It All</i> by Lars Von Trier have already sold out.
The process of purchasing tickets for the Wisconsin Film Fest every spring has certainly evolved over the last nine years since the first edition was held in 1999.
As the festival has grown increasingly prominent and popular, demand for tickets has concurrently skyrocketed, the result being long lines at festival box office (at the UW Memorial Union) the day sales start. At the same time, though, the ease of purchasing tickets online has also grown commensurately.
Online ordering went really, really well. My only beef is that I got kicked back to the shopping cart page about five times while the system was busy -- and each time I had to re-enter not just my credit card info, but name/address/contact info and (here's my real gripe) the quantities of every film.
But I'd say WFF is at least 90% of the way there in terms of a streamlined ordering system. A long way from waiting in line at the Union to hear that the system went down, leave your form and payment info and we'll enter them when we can, &c.
I'm going to miss the camaraderie of waiting in line, chatting with my line-neighbors about what films they want to see and all -- but not that much.
Indeed, while sales appear to be proceeding smoothly online, they're not wholly without problems. Shortly before noon on Sunday, festival director Meg Hamel noted some delays for purchasers on the festival's Web site. She wrote:
There have been some connection delays that have slowed down the approval system for orders. After submitting your order, a red "barbershop" bar should appear while the order is being confirmed with the central system. This morning that approval can take several minutes. Then a confirmation screen will appear with an order number. We're continuing to work through the morning to improve how this works. If you have a technical problem or comment, please send an email to me... and I'll share it with the tech team. The system is working, so try again if you're getting a connection problem. My apologies for the trouble.
Nevertheless, tickets are selling briskly, with the first sold-out show reported hours after sales began on St. Patrick's Day, and several others following in the subsequent 24 hours. Lars Von Trier's The Boss of It All was the first offering to sell out entirely, screenings at the MMoCA lecture hall on both the Friday and Sunday of the festival no longer available for advance purchases. Also sold out are the Saturday (and second) screening of King Corn, the Thursday screening of the American classic Killer of Sheep, the only screening of the Douglas Coupland-scribed Everything's Gone Green, and the sole screening of El EspÃritu de la Colmena (or The Spirit of the Beehive, a timely restoration of a 1973 film set during the Spanish Civil War). More comments about show sales are available here. Many other films are certain to sell out rapidly over the next several days and in coming weeks.
Advance ticket sales for films and vouchers will continue -- online and at the festival box office at the UW Memorial Union -- over the next three-and-a-half weeks until Wednesday, April 11, the day before the shows begin.
However, there are also opportunities to purchase tickets on the day of a show, and even for those that are officially sold out. Day-of tickets will be available at the individual theater box offices, which will typically open one hour before the first screening of the day at the particular venue. Rush tickets are can also be purchased for sold-out shows, as detailed by the festival:
Want to see a sold-out show? You can! (Usually.) A film is sold out when all of the tickets allotted for advance purchase have sold. We set aside a few tickets for filmmakers and these might not all get used. Many people buy tickets and may be unable to come to the show. This means an open seat that can be filled right before the start of the film. (This is why ticket-holders must arrive at least 15 minutes before a show to have a guaranteed seat.)
Each theater has a rush-ticket line that is separate from the ticket-holders line. If you would like to see a film and no tickets are available at that theater's box office, join the rush-ticket line (ask a volunteer where to stand). It's wise to come about a half-hour before the start of the show, but it depends on how popular that film is. When all the ticket holders have been seated, we'll count up how many empty seats there are in the theater, and start selling last-minute seats to those people waiting in the rush-ticket line.
Cash or vouchers may be used to buy rush tickets. Having a voucher is not a guarantee of a seat or preference in line; it's just used in lieu of cash. The number of rush tickets available depends on the number of empty seats for that show. Limit two tickets per patron. First come, first seated.
Indeed, seats at shows you might have lost hope of seeing can often be procured this way at the cost of a normal ticket price and a little bit of a wait.
That's always a gamble, though, as the only sure way to snap up a seat or three in one of the downtown theaters hosting festival screenings is with an early purchase. Perhaps consulting the festival schedule grid will be helpful in making some of those tough decisions. After all, the movies start in less than a month.