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David Poland

By David Poland

My Card. My Life. My Oh My Those Tix Are Expensive

I was disgusted to read this morning – yes, disgusted – that The Tribeca Film Festival, which has just started to emerge from being anything more than a failure for anyone other than The Tribeca Film Festival, is kicking up ticket prices by about 50%, from $12 to $18.
This is just a jaw dropper for anyone who knows film festivals. For one thing, Tribeca started as the second highest capitalized film festival in America, just behind Sundance… from Day One. American Express and others have kicked in millions to a budget said to exceed $12 million a year. But oh, that hasn’t stopped the festival from whoring itself out in new and unique ways year after year. Last year seemed to be a low as a festival could go, with the Mission:Impossible III television program, funded in part by the festival.
But kicking up the ticket prices… it is so antithetical to what a film festival is meant to do… especially one dedicated to rebuilding the community of Manhattan’s 9/11 beaten Tribeca. (The festival is also expanding uptown this year, making a festival said by many attendees to be too spread out even more spread out… but that’s another drama.)
For one thing, none of the ticket money goes to the filmmakers who, as with all festivals, balance being exploited with the hope of exploiting the exposure. So there is no benefit to the many who contribute films – whether distributors or filmmakers – to the increase.
Second, anyone who has ever seen a festival budget knows that ticket sales are a small part of what pays for a festival, Toronto being somewhat of the exception. But if Tribeca actually sells 100,000 tickets this year – which would be a really high sales (not attendance) estimate – they have added $600,000 to their overall income or around 5% of their budget. It’s not chicken feed. But it is a relatively small amount of their budget that comes directly from the one group that can least afford the added expense.
Plus… it’s just so f-ing arrogant. The excuse given to indieWIRE in their excellent coverage was, in part, “”unique experience that cannot be re-created.” True… because most of their crap programming will never be seen again.
Tribeca needs a serious rethink of what the purpose of the festival’s existence is, because even though there are plenty of buyers in Manhattan, there are very few sales… which is inevitable, since there is no reason for any more festival markets than we already have… and as I have recently written, the need for them is getting lesser ever day.
So the purpose of Tribeca is now to gouge supportive, ambitious, daring filmgoers for an extra $6 a ticket to see product that is hit and miss (as at all fests) so that a few more TV ads and a few more rooms at the Soho Grand can be paid for? This is not DeNiro and Rosenthal’s vision. This is not the behavior of a serious film festival.
A celebration of film in Manhattan during the summer should be a thing of absolute beauty. Nothing would make me happier than to be a relentless supporter of this thing. But they were like a baby with a head two times too big to walk from the start and instead of getting better, it seems to get worse every year. They have the money. They have the attention of the media and the industry. Now it’s time for them to deliver something great. To have so much and to deliver so little… it hurts my heart.

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11 Responses to “My Card. My Life. My Oh My Those Tix Are Expensive”

  1. Hallick says:

    “The excuse given to indieWIRE in their excellent coverage was, in part, “”unique experience that cannot be re-created.”
    Thanks Dreamgirls! Thanks for bringing that mentality to the box office! Yeah, you had colletibles and booklets that made your inflated ticket prices explainable, but good luck finding those kinds of perks at THIS festival.

  2. White Label says:

    I’m comfortable paying a little more for a film festival ticket than a regular one asssuming the lengths a fest has to go about shipping rare films from other fests (Minneapolis-St. Paul anyway, ours often pulls the only print out of indonesia for things). But even I wouldn’t pay $18 to sit and watch a film unless there was something more (Q&A, chorus girls/boys, etc.) but I’m a cheap scot, too.

  3. a1amoeba says:

    I was disappointed when they dropped both the NY, NY narrative and doc sections – this just cinches it. TFF now officially sucks donkey ass.
    Oh yeah, don’t forget the $50 fee they charge each film maker to submit. Suckers….

  4. This will surely just make the bigger movies more popular, right? Cause while it’s great to be able to see obscure movies that will never be released, paying nearly $20 for it almost seems like a waste when you can spend that $20 on a movie that you will be able to discuss with other people for a while.
    …i dunno.

  5. EDouglas says:

    Yeah, I’m trying hard not to bitch too much about the festival since they’ve been good to me (which is more than I can say about Toronto)… but $18?!? That’s insane. I’ve maybe only seen three or four movies in each festival worth paying that much (not that I would) and on top of that, they’re seriously reducing the number of advance press screenings, which means it’s going to be harder for them to get buzz going on the movies. There are certainly some interesting movies that I’m dying to see…but enough to pay $18? No way.

  6. EDouglas says:

    And not to mention the fact that the festival is no longer centrally located downtown and is now scattered all over midtown and the Upper West Side. Even the press screenings are being held up there rather than at the Tribeca Cinemas (which are owned by De Niro and co.)

  7. Devin Faraci says:

    What nonsense. Dave, you’re right when you point out that this festival just does not offer enough good films. And the 18$ price will just hurt all the other movies.

  8. MovieGoat says:

    I also had a souring experience when obtaining my industry pass for Tribeca this year. It was something like $600! I thought the damn thing would be free! I mean, this is publicity for them. How are THEY charging US? Regardless, in response to Tribeca’s original mission statement to “revive and rebuild the torn Downtown Manhattan community” I feel they’ve strayed far from that path and aren’t looking back.
    I did catch wind, however, of a brand new film festival in lower Manhattan that seems to be picking up where Tribeca left off. The ACE Film Festival is all about it and it’s looking like a great thing they’re doing.

  9. Devin Faraci says:

    Here’s the thing: as someone whose office is on Murray Street, three blocks from WTC and across Broadway from City Hall and a couple of blocks from the Regal Battery Park theater, I can tell you that downtown NY is doing pretty fucking OK right now.

  10. EDouglas says:

    MovieGoat: Toronto does the same thing, charging $600 for their industry pass. And when they turn you down for press credentials (which I have been turned down two years in a row now), they immediately suggest you apply for the credential where you pay $600 for the ability to stand in the long lines for the same overpacked press/industry screenings as those from barely existent outlets who are able to automatically get credentials since they’ve been going for years.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

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