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High-volume ticketing for the New York Film Festival

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Matt D'Silva

Matt D'SilvaDatabase Manager, Film Society of Lincoln Center

TitleImproving ticketing for the New York Film Festival


Read/View Time4 min

We are the New York Film Festival, so we have a really high demand customer base. When the New York Film Festival goes on sale, we have up to 40,000 to 50,000 people all trying to buy tickets at once. 

For the New York Film Festival, you can buy a package in advance, which is between 20 and 30 vouchers per package. We've got our memberships, and our memberships are ranked. The level that you pay really determines when you can go online to purchase your tickets. The higher the membership, the earlier it goes on sale. 

We customized our packages to be available online, and because we wanted to make everything digital, we made the redemption of the vouchers available online. 

Instead of 50,000 people buying tickets all at once, we could spread it out over the course of three weeks before it then hits the general public. We were able to get all the tickets out maybe four weeks prior to the festival. So it streamlined a lot. It freed up our box office.

Photo courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center


Previously, it was hard tickets. So, somebody would buy their vouchers, or somebody would buy their tickets, we would announce the Festival as we have today, and then in two weeks they would run up to Alice Tully Hall with their vouchers and they'd manually swap the tickets over. They used Tessitura, but they had to exchange the vouchers, and it took hours upon hours. Their policy at the time was they could only mail them. So, last year I said, "Let's do print at home." So, we implemented print-at-home, and that meant the tickets would come out immediately. Last year, our demographic were not so hot with online ticketing, so it was a very small number, but this year it's up to 67% or 72%.

"The best thing that I'd say from Tessitura and implementing it is we are able to effectively understand what our customers want, and that has been a greater improvement than any of the other ticketing systems they used."

It has improved box office, because they're not processing as much, and the customers will be getting their tickets immediately. But it’s also meant that we're able to manage the holds a lot better. We're able to make sure things are released for general public, because the whole of this membership ranking is that , it's, our members are able to purchase tickets before the general public. 

We release everything that hasn't been sold to the general public on the 11th of September. Obviously we want to make sure everything's available. What the customization has done is, it means we know what's available, we know what holds are left, we're able to release it online, so the general public are actually getting more tickets. We used to hold so many because we weren't sure actually how many we needed, how many were actually sold, because everything was manually done. So it's streamlined a lot.

The way they used to do it is tickets were given away. Generally, when tickets are given away, especially with film festivals, you've got your general public who pay, but then you've got people who get in free, or members who redeem their vouchers. By doing it the way we have done now digitally, we can actually see who's got the tickets, who's actually redeeming the tickets, and on the day of the screening, we can see if there are holds where people haven't redeemed, so we are then able to resell it to people who are in the queue out the front, which previously we weren't able to do.

Photo courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center

Improving the Customer Experience

First year, it improved the overall experience because previously, with another ticketing system, it crashed. So, we weren't able to sell any tickets for the first three days. So, that was an improvement, that the system actually worked, so our members and our customers were able to actually redeem vouchers and purchase tickets. They loved the fact that we were able to effectively communicate with them as well, because we implemented a virtual waiting room, which hadn't been done previously. With the new virtual waiting room, we're able to effectively communicate, "Okay, Bridge of Spies is now sold out, or The Walk is sold out, or Carol is now sold out," so we're able to ease the frustration. There's still going to be a wait, but they're able to purchase things or see what is still available. So it improved the overall experience for the customer.

Everybody at the Film Society loves it. It's a great system. Generally speaking, cinemas don't capture their customer data. It's a general admission ticket. You go up 15 minutes beforehand, you buy a ticket, you're in. But with Tessitura, we're able to capture that data. So we're able to get their names, their addresses, their e-mails, and effectively market to them. The best thing that I'd say from Tessitura and implementing it is we are able to effectively understand what our customers want, and that has been a greater improvement than any of the other ticketing systems they used.

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