Filmgoers fume over ticketing confusion

By Peter Calder

Organisers of the Auckland International Film Festival have been left counting their losses because of a ticket-sales fiasco that has also left punters fuming.

The festival finishes its 17-day run tomorrow having screened more than 150 separate programmes at more than 350 sessions.

Screenings were spread across four city venues _ the Civic, the Academy, SkyCity's Queen St cinemas and the SkyCity Theatre in the Hobson St casino complex _ as well as, for the first time this year, the Lido in Epsom and the Bridgeway in Northcote.

But the annual orgy of filmgoing has been marred by massive confusion over ticketing.

Some patrons were told that sessions were sold out when they were not, and long queues for counter sales delayed starting times or meant that patrons missed the opening minutes of films.

The problem arose because the festival was dealing for the first time with two ticketing systems.

Ticketek has done festival ticketing in the past, but this year The Edge, which manages the Civic, required the festival to use its own newly established ticketing arm for that venue.

Meanwhile, Ticketek, which has a venue contract at SkyCity, insisted on control of sales at its venue.

Festival director Bill Gosden said staff worked hard to minimise the expense and inconvenience to patrons.

They negotiated "complex competitive relationships" so that The Edge handled all presales _ some 50,000 tickets. But Ticketek took over the sale of the remaining tickets for SkyCity once the festival was under way.

The upshot was disgruntled patrons having to go to two places _ and pay two booking fees _ to book tickets.

"Once the festival began, any semblance of integration ended and our fears about unco-ordinated customer service agencies were realised," Mr Gosden said yesterday.

Making matters worse, The Edge declined to accept responsibility for day sales at any venues other than the Civic.

As a result, patrons booking in advance at SkyCity were causing long delays for those trying to buy tickets for sessions about to start.

This writer was repeatedly approached by angry patrons who said they had missed part or all of screenings they had wanted to attend.

The chief executive of The Edge, Greg Innes, and the general manager of Ticketek, Brendon Bainbridge, both said there were teething problems which were ironed out after a few days.

But Mr Gosden said that festival staff witnessed "relentless testimony from exasperated and angry first-week patrons that they would not be back for more".

"We'll never know the full extent of the damage to our business," he said.

"We are hoping for a bumper closing weekend so as to end on a high note what has been a gratifyingly well-received film festival."

The three groups will meet in the next few weeks to discuss how a repeat of the debacle can be avoided.

- NZ Herald

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