Pusan screenings a scramble for guests

As the number of films at PIFF grows ever larger — a giant 170-plus features this year, excluding retros — it’s developing a rep as one of the hardest fests at which to actually see them.

Even invited guests, shipped in and housed at the fest’s expense, face a daily scramble for press and guest tix at booths that open at 8 a.m. but hang up the “sold out” sign at 8:01. And crix and scouts looking to shuttle between screenings are stymied by a computer program that won’t issue tickets for more than one film screening at the same time.

Gone are the old days, when PIFF was based in Nampo-dong and volunteers scrambled to accommodate guests in screenings with extra chairs and plenty of helpfulness. Nowadays, volunteers — following rules handed down to them to the letter — are a further obstacle to seeing a movie.

This year, one Variety reviewer, who arrived two minutes late for a screening because a previous show had overrun, was halted by two female volunteers and then physically “restrained” by four beefy male ones from entering the theater. Film’s subsequent shows were sold out. Result: pic went unreviewed.

Two other Variety reviewers were barred from entering the theater concourse at Primus until 10 minutes before screenings started, despite the fact that the area was, well, “thinly” attended during the market’s three screening days.

With almost 30 salles, PIFF is one of the most heavily screened on the planet but organizers seem unwilling, despite annual gripes, to devote several of these to a full press-screening sked — as in, say, Toronto — and avoid the press/guest ticketing problem.

Screenings generally started on the button and sans snafus. But the unhappiest of the gripers this year must be one director with a rock ‘n’ roll pic. Despite being a trained projectionist and sound engineer, he wasn’t allowed into the box to tweak the controls so his mono print would play OK through the Dolby system.

Rules are rules.

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