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Toronto Film Festival Opening Night Beset By Digital Ticketing Issues; Queen Elizabeth II Remembered Before ‘The Swimmers’ Premiere

Not even the death of Queen Elizabeth II could halt the hustle and bustle of another in-person Toronto International Film Festival during the Covid era as throngs lined up for premieres and chomped off food carts on festival row (aka King Street).

However, what did vex festivalgoers in Hogtown was the second year of TIFF’s digital ticketing website via Ticketmaster. Last year it wasn’t a problem given the reduced capacity at TIFF venues and fewer attending out of fear of the pandemic. However, judging by the turnout at Roy Thomson Hall tonight for the fest’s opening film, The Swimmers from Netflix, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that TIFF has returned to its pre-pandemic 300K-plus attendance.

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Festival Street aka King Street at TIFF
Deadline/A.D’Alessandro

And with great demand, comes great chaos. The TIFF Ticketmaster site was besieged by time out problems, which prevented festivalgoers from logging in and obtaining their tickets. Some tickets, like those for Swimmers, didn’t even show up in some attendees’ accounts.

Solving the problem at Roy Thomson Hall were Netflix staffers who ensured no key people were turned away — even if they were ticketless. Even 4x Oscar nominee Jason Reitman got through the door in time for a tribute reel of his late filmmaker father, Ivan Reitman, which played before tonight’s premiere. Still, why can’t TIFF just do paper tickets? The aggravation here doesn’t justify the savings in print costs.

In response to the TIFF Ticketmaster imbroglio, a festival rep told Deadline tonight, “The issues with press & industry ticket redemption some of you experienced over the last two days left some users feeling frustrated. As with all computer systems that we rely on, they are not infallible 100% of the time. We discovered an issue that was affecting some delegates and worked quickly to address it. A new approach to accessing tickets was sent to all delegates, via our press & industry Twitter, and the response was positive. We are committed to improving our service in 2023.”

Earlier today, TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey releases a two-part statement on Twitter about Queen Elizabeth II’s death, writing, “We extend our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her passing.”

“As we prepare to welcome Canadians and international guests to the Festival, we know that many will be deeply affected by her death. We keep her legacy in our memory.”

Bailey echoed those sentiments again for Her Majesty tonight as he took the stage, and then moved on to the events at hand for the fest, promptly introducing Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) who welcomed the audience.

While much was exclaimed at last year’s TIFF opening night as North American moviegoers reconvened for the first time inside theatrical venues after months of quarantine, Bailey reflected tonight, “The idea of gathering to numbers like this has been a challenge.”

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Netflix

Following Bailey, The Swimmers director and co-writer Sally El Hosaini took the mic and welcomed the pic’s producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Tim Cole, and Ali Jaafar, who secured story of the Mardini sisters (both of whom were present, Yusra and Sarah), as well as co-writer Jack Thorne, editor Iain Kitching, and stars James Krishna Floyd, Matthias Schweighofer and the twin actresses playing the Mardinis, Manal Issa and Nathalie Issa. The movie, based on a true story, follows the journey of the Mardini sisters who fled war-torn Syria as refugees and made their way to the 2016 Rio Olympics to compete in swimming.

Elsewhere in the city, flags were lowered and Toronto’s CN Tower dimmed as politicians and public figures mourned the loss of the 96 year-old Monarch. Queen Elizabeth II made seven visits to Toronto between 1957 and 2010 according to the CBC. Prior to that, her first visit to the city was in 1951 as Princess Elizabeth, when she came in place of her father King George VI, who was ill at the time.

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