Sundance sales start | ParkRecord.com

Sundance sales start

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Katie Eldridge plans to be in one of the last groups of Parkites this weekend buying Sundance Film Festival tickets, if there are any she wants left for sale.

Eldridge, who says she registered to buy tickets during this weekend’s locals-only sales on the last day she could, received a time slot at 6 p.m. on Sunday, toward the end of the annual two-day presale.

"I don’t think they’ll be good but what the heck, might as well give it a shot," says Eldridge, who has bought tickets during the locals-only sales since 2000.

Eldridge is one of 1,230 people Sundance’s ticketing computers randomly selected to buy tickets in Park City after they registered to do so earlier.

But Sundance officials report that not everyone in Summit County who wanted a time slot during the weekend sales received one. They say, to efficiently sell the tickets, they had to limit the number of people who were given slots.

Jill Miller, the managing director of the Sundance Institute, reports approximately 200 people in Summit County, or about one out of every seven who sought tickets, were denied time slots. They are barred from buying tickets during the locals-only sales, meant as a carrot to Parkites and others in Utah who support the festival.

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The random selections Sundance introduced this year is the latest arrangement for the locals-only sales, after the organizers scrapped what had been a traditional first-come, first-served method.

The changes followed a contentious locals-only sale in 2005, when people at the front of the line, who had waited more than a day, found that lots of films, far more than typical, were already sold out.

Miller says the random selections are the fairest way to line people up for the ticket sales. In 2006, when Sundance distributed wristbands to randomly determine the order, the ticket sellers ran out of bands, leaving some people without time slots.

Miller reports that 900 people bought locals-only tickets in Summit County in 2006.

"Each year, we’ve been able to increase the number of people we are able to serve," she says, adding, "1,230 is a big number for us."

Still, that approximately 200 people in Summit County were left out of the weekend’s sales will likely add consternation to what has sometimes been a tense relationship between the organizers and Parkites who enjoy the films but are unable to score the coveted tickets.

As recently as late in 2006, a Summit County panel that recommends tax grants for arts and other groups encouraged Sundance to make more tickets available to people in the county. The chairman of the cultural side of the committee, Tom Fey, told The Park Record in December he hears a "fair amount" of complaints that people in Summit County are unable to purchase tickets during locals-only sales because they are sold out.

And after the 2005 sale, when lots of people left with few or no tickets, some unhappy Parkites approached Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council with their complaints.

People who were denied time slots in 2007 received a form e-mail telling them "we unfortunately cannot offer you a purchase time . . . " The e-mail says demand was "unexpectedly high."

"Unfortunately, we are limited by the number of ticket stations, ticket agents and operating hours" in Park City and Salt Lake City, the e-mail says.

According to the message, Sundance estimates it will sell locals-only tickets to 25 percent more people in 2007 compared to past years but "interest in Locals tickets exceeded even that estimate."

Sundance suggests people try to get tickets as other lots go on sale, including during national sales, which required registration by Jan. 4, and at the main box office at the Gateway Center in Old Town starting on Jan. 15. People can try to buy tickets at the start of each day of the festival and can try wait-list lines outside the theaters during the festival.

Sundance says 10 percent of the people in the wait-list lines get into the screenings.

Tom Heffron, who has gone to the festival since the mid-1980s, before it was known as Sundance, used to camp out to buy tickets, before the organizers changed the procedure.

This year, he and his wife were given slots to purchase over the weekend. He plans to buy tickets early Saturday morning and his wife later that evening. His son and two neighbors were shut out, though.

He likes Sundance’s old method, when he would camp. Heffron says that system favored die-hards willing to put in hours to get the best tickets.

"I prefer the old way because I was willing to work," he says. "You had to put (in) time and effort to make sure you got tickets."

Destiny Grose, another Parkite who used to wait hours, received a Saturday afternoon time slot. It is well after the time she used to purchase tickets, when, she says, she typically was in the first 20 buyers. Grose, like Heffron, favors the abandoned system, saying that sleeping overnight for tickets was "grueling" but "you got what you worked for." The system now lops everyone together, regardless of their interest, she says.

"There is no way for that love and desire to come forth," Grose says.

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