As the Berlin Film Festival and its accompanying European Film Market get under way at near normal levels for the first time since 2020, some things that seem new and different may not be.
The ticketing system for festival and EFM badge holders has moved online and represents a new and frustrating institution for many participants this year – but it was in fact introduced in 2022, when the festival operated at a COVID-impacted smaller scale and the official market was held entirely online.
There have been no changes to the underlying system of badges or the kinds of access to tickets available to market and festival participants, the Berlinale insists – though it may not feel that way to everyone.
“By the time I got online, the tickets were all sold out,” one festival participant, typical of many, told Variety on Thursday.
“The move online was a change, a big change,” acknowledged a festival spokesman. “The new system is better. You don’t have to queue up for tickets at six o’clock in the morning.”
But a system driven by rigid software protocols, rather that inconsistent humans, may mean reduced flexibility.
“It is still possible for market badge holders to get into certain festival and press screenings at the Berlinale Palast,” a festival spokesman said. But these late-availability tickets remain outside the new online system and cannot be pre-booked.
The changes have led some market attendees to feel pressured into buying an additional festival pass, thus significantly increasing their costs. The festival’s response to that is uncompromising. “Some people have always done that.”
Press screenings, previously accessible upon simple presentation of a press badge, albeit with real world lines, have also now been transformed into all-ticket affairs that need to be booked upto 48 hours in advance.
At peak periods, the online booking system puts people in a virtual waiting room. But in all instances experienced by Variety, it returns to live operation in less than the ten minutes flagged by the online error message.
The festival also rebuffed assertions that there are new (or secret) priority tiers among festival accreditations. It explained that there are the same four types of festival badges – student, press, festival pass and guest – as in previous editions, each with slightly different access levels.
“There is no carte blanche system,” said the festival spokesperson “We’ve actually increased the quota [of available seats] for festival badge holders this time, because we were unsure that everyone would get to terms with the new system.”