X on What’s bad at the SFIFF: Crowd Control

Crowd Control and other areas for improvement at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The main venue for the San Francisco International Film Festival is the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. The largest room seats five hundred, the other five are much smaller. There is not a lot of room inside the theater for ticket holders to wait in line, so ticket holders and those hoping for rush (wait list) ticket are placed in lines outside the theater. This is where is gets a bit dicey.

The current practice is to put ticket holders in the same line irrespective of the movie they are there to see. You can have three people in the same line to see three different movies. This results in a long line, wrapped halfway around the block. Despite the long lines, there is only two or three staff members that aren’t at the front of the line near the theater entrance. When one of the three films is ready for an audience they let in those ticketholders, while those for the other two wait. With only two or three staff members spanning half a city block it can lead to a lot of confusion. “What did they say? What’s going on?”

Another ‘areas for improvement’

One film, The Whistlerblower screened at the same time on two small theaters that were right next to each other. The director was at the festival and available for a post film Q&A. The crowd control coordination for this was terrible. Obviously the Q&A could only be conducted in one theater. The people in the non Q&A theater were told they would be ‘escorted’ into the Q&A theater at the film’s conclusion and the stage was set for logistical fail.

The director introduced the film first in the non Q&A theater, thus the non Q&A theater screening started and ended first. As the film ended in the non Q&A theater, the sound was cut as the final credits rolled. This allowed staff members to make the announcement that those in the theater would be able to go next door to the other theater for the Q&A, which is all the ‘escorting’ they provided. The sound was never turned back on, an implicit message that the screening was complete and it was time to move next door to the Q&A theater.

The Q&A theater which started and ended later had people leaving as the credits rolled (with the sound on), while others stayed in their seats awaiting conclusion of the credits. At the same time people from the non Q&A theater filed in mixing with people leaving. Those entering had to find seats, so some of them began sitting down while the credits were still rolling.

Not the best experience. Crowd control is exactly that, controlling the crowd. The Q&A theater should have started and ended the film first and people should have only been let in for the Q&A after the film (and credits) finished and after those who didn’t want to stay for the Q&A had exited both theaters. Not exactly easy, but not intolerable either.

Later, I’ll have some of what is good at the SFIFF.

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