Nate von Zumwalt
Navigating the world of ticketing at the Sundance Film Festival can seem a daunting emprise. Fortunately, Sundance’s own expert in the field, Linda Pfafflin, knows the ins and outs better than anyone, and for the last few years, she’s made herself a resource for audiences looking for seats. Below, she shares some of the lesser-known avenues into the films you’d never thought you had a chance at seeing—and those you’d never thought to try. Keep reading for your guide to everything you need to know about ticketing at the Sundance Film Festival.
What’s the most common inquiry you receive regarding ticket sales?
Linda Pfafflin: After “how much are tickets?” ($25 each), the question is often “Do I have to be in the film industry to attend?” No! Only about 20% of our attendees are press or industry folks; the other people are film fans or aspiring filmmakers. We pride ourselves on being accessible to the public.
What’s the best tip you have for Festivalgoers who are purchasing individual tickets?
LP: Be flexible. Choose films that might not come to your local art house or will take a long time to get to video on demand. See films in Salt Lake City where every film from every category is played. The screening you think might be an “obscure” film could be an undiscovered film gem. We have the 1,100-seat Grand Theatre at Salt Lake Community College, and we’ve programmed the biggest premieres and dramatics there that used to sell out at the Rose Wagner. We still have the Grand Pass available for sale.
Which Festival category is typically the quickest to sell out?
LP: Premieres and then Dramatic Competition films. But the best-attended categories last year were shorts programs, and, surprisingly, the NEXT category.
What’s the biggest misconception about ticketing at the Sundance Film Festival?
LP: That we’ re sold out. Beyond the first screenings of films in Park City on the first weekend, we only totally sell out about 30% of our 650+ public screenings. Most previously off-sale films have new tickets released on the day of show, and it’s very rare that no waitlisters are admitted.
What’s the best ticketing option for attendees who are most interested in panels, music, and other Off Screen events?
LP: If you haven’t already bought a ticket package or a pass (which automatically come with a credential), purchase a credential for $200 to gain priority access to non-theater events. Only two panels that occur in theaters are ticketed like films; other panels are free to credential holders at the Filmmaker Lodge.
Is it worth it to try my hand at waitlist tickets, and what’s the story behind the eWaitlist system?
LP: Absolutely. Fifteen percent of our audience is admitted by buying Waitlist tickets. The theater teams will inform Waitlisters of the average number of people admitted to that venue or if it looks hopeless, which rarely happens. The eWaitlist was one of our big success stories last year. It’s a mobile-enabled check-in system that allows Festivalgoers to reserve a line position over the internet.
Remember to register in advance in January at our website. The eWaitlist allowed us to increase the number of last minute filmgoers admitted. And here’s an insider tip: don’t despair if your electronic waitlist number seems really high. We found out that only a third of the people who received electronic numbers actually checked in. So, if you received number 100, you might have actually been number 33 in line. We’re also improving the system this year, so you’ll get to see how many people in front of you cancel.
Another insider tip? Waitlist for Day One screenings in Park City or the SLC gala on the first Friday: 350 people got into those screenings, but we could have admitted another thousand. We just didn’t have enough waitlist people for all the empty seats.