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VIFF apologizes after dozens of ticket holders turned away

Director David Cronenberg attends "Maps To The Stars" Premiere Cocktail Reception during the 52nd New York Film Festival at Indie Food and Wine Bar on September 27, 2014 in New York City.

Andrew Toth/Getty Images

The Vancouver International Film Festival is apologizing for snafus at the Vancouver Playhouse venue Monday night that saw dozens of ticket-holders turned away at the door – while staff and volunteers occupied seats inside.

It was the Playhouse's first day of operation at VIFF 2014, and it was a mess. Patrons at both screenings – David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars and Xavier Dolan's Mommy – were unable to get into the auditorium despite having purchased tickets well in advance.

Sepehr Rad, who said he bought tickets for Mommy about two weeks ago, was upset after waiting in line for well over an hour. "It's pretty simple: you have however many seats in there, you sell that many tickets. People who have tickets should have priority to get in," he said.

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VIFF's exhibitions manager, who was on site, was unsure what had gone wrong as frustrated fans demanded an explanation after spending a futile evening in line.

"We made some mistakes and it's cost us. It's cost us a lot. You guys can't get into the show," Sean Wilson explained to ticket holders who were unable to get into the only scheduled VIFF screening of Mommy.

Mr. Wilson also apologized to a long lineup of disappointed passholders. "I know that we shouldn't have had you waiting out here for an hour-and-a-half, but I was really hoping we'd get some more passholders in after the ticket holders." (Full disclosure: I was one of the passholders in the line that was not admitted.)

The Globe and Mail requested an interview with VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis on Tuesday, but was told she was not available. Instead, she issued a statement explaining that because the films will soon be released, VIFF was allowed only one screening for each film, with a limited house size. In those circumstances, the policy is that staff and volunteer passholders are not permitted to attend the screenings. "It seems that for these films last night, this policy was [mistakenly] bypassed, thus resulting in an oversell situation where the screening was full and some advanced ticket purchasers were not able to be admitted to the screening. It is not, [and] has never been a business practice of VIFF's to oversell screenings."

Ms. Dupuis did not know exactly how many ticket-holders were turned away at the screenings, but estimated it was a few dozen.

"The situation at last [night's] screenings [was] very unfortunate and frustrating to many. For this we deeply apologize," she said in the statement.

Ticket-holders who could not get in were offered a refund as well as a free ticket to another VIFF screening.

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