|Sundance London 2013 (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Expensive Ticket Prices)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 23 April 2013 06:43|
Sundance London is back at The O2 this week for a second year after a successful 2012 – and once again, I find myself torn over the whole thing.
On the one hand, it’s a great platform for indie films and fun to have some Sundance buzz spill over into the UK. On the other hand, it’s an overpriced affair that sees Robert Redford's institution charge £10 for a ceramic mug with the Sundance London logo on it - perhaps the only film festival in the UK that sells its own merchandise.
This year, the prices for tickets have actually gone up: £14, including a booking fee of £2.50. Plus another fee of £2.50.
£16.50. That’s a lot of money to spend on a film. It’s £1.50 more than last year, which can make a difference in cash-strapped times. And it’s the same whether you go during the afternoon, on a weekday or during the weekend. Compared to the average ticket price in the UK (£6.06, as of 2011, according to the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association), that’s crazy. Then again, this is London we’re talking about. Let’s compare it to the capital’s most expensive screen (probably Odeon Leicester Square) instead. If you went to see Iron Man 3 there on Thursday night in 3D, an adult seat would set you back a whopping £24.50. A child? £19.10. (Don’t be fooled by the Jedi Price Trick: that’s £20.)
Suddenly, Sundance isn't such a bad deal after all. Still, Raindance Film Festival, Sundance’s most comparable UK festival buddy, charges £10 for their most expensive seats – without any booking fee nonsense. Meanwhile, London’s other major film festival (cunningly called the London Film Festival) starts at £11.50 and goes all the way up to £30 for their tippy-top galas.
You could argue that all of Sundance’s screenings are galas; UK premieres complete with Q&As afterwards and most of them on Cineworld’s absurdly huge Sky Superscreen (the second biggest/widest screen in the country after the BFI IMAX).
If you want to go to all of those screenings guaranteed, you can pick up a Sky Superscreen Pass for £280, including a booking fee of £15 (go figure). For 14 movies (unless I’m missing other extras), that works out as £21.73 per film. Almost Iron Man 3D prices. On the other hand, an event such as From the Sea to the Land Beyond accompanied by British Sea Power costs £21.28 – decent value for a film with a live score/gig from a good band.
It’s uneven, to say the least. The pressure is on Sundance London, then, to justify its bizarre entry costs (and multiple booking fees – thanks, See Tickets) with some high quality produce. Last year, it did exactly that, with only one duff film witnessed by yours truly. Even more impressively, it proved a vital stage for indie filmmakers, helping a whopping 8 out of its 14 films, including The Queen of Versailles and Safety Not Guaranteed, to get UK distribution (either on TV or, for the most part, theatrically).
That’s the ultimate remit of a festival, isn’t it? Introducing an audience to new films they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance of seeing – and proving that audience demand is strong enough to convince a distributor to buy the rights.
Sundance London managed both in 2012, which makes it a resounding success. That’s why I’m genuinely thrilled to see it return – especially with some British indie movies added to the line-up.
The question for Sundance London 2013 is: can it do the same again if it costs audiences more to go? That seems a moot point for the organisers. Screenings have already started to sell out, which is a strong sign that the Sundance festival - and, more crucially, the brand - has made its mark in the capital. After all, those who can’t afford to go can always buy a mug online. They’re only £8.00. Plus a booking fee of £2.50.
We’ll be attending Sundance London from Friday onwards for the weekend – and, like last year, will be using our patented Sundance-O-Meter in all our reviews, to help you work out which films are worth forking out your cash for.
For more on Sundance London, visit the official site – or check out our 7 films to see at Sundance London 2013.