Fans say lottery’s not Toronto ticket

Some want a return to first-come, first-served Festival

TORONTO — There is yet another ticket-sales controversy at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

In what is almost an annual rite, some filmgoers in Toronto are loudly complaining about the way tickets are sold for the Toronto fest, which kicks off tonight with the North American preem of hometown helmer Atom Egoyan’s “Felicia’s Journey.”

Festival adopted a lottery-style system this year to dole out passes for film buffs who pay between C$90 ($60) and $190 to see up to 50 films. In the past, folks would camp out (many overnight) in front of the fest box office because the passes and coupon books were sold on a first-come, first-served basis. The new method, which is similar to the systems used by concert-ticket companies, was designed by festival organizers to do away with the overnight lineups.

Many would-be ticket buyers were grumbling, with some demanding a return to the first-come, first-served approach. At least one protest petition was started by a disgruntled moviegoing wanna-be.

The problem is that, as a result of the fest’s popularity, some pass holders are unable to nab tickets to all of the pics they want to see.

But fest spokesman Nuria Bronfman said the new system is fairer and that most ticket buyers are happy with it.

Egoyan, thesps Bob Hoskins, Elaine Cassidy, and Arsinee Khanjian, and producers Bruce Davey and Robert Lantos will be on hand for tonight’s screening of “Felicia’s Journey.”

Pic, a British-Canadian co-production, had its world premiere in official competition at Cannes and will be released in select cities in the U.S. by Artisan Entertainment on Nov. 12.

The opening party following “Felicia’s Journey” is being held in the Skydome, with a carnival/midway-themed bash complete with amusement-park rides.

As per the past, the 24th edition of the Toronto festival is attracting an impressive number of well-known thesps and helmers, including Annette Bening, Sandrine Bonnaire, Wes Craven, Lasse Hallstrom, Harry Connick Jr., Catherine Deneuve, Norman Jewison and Lawrence Kasdan.

Others on hand or soon to be include Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, Ethan Hawke, Jason Priestley, Tim Roth, Paul Schrader, Kevin Smith, Sean Penn, Natalie Portman, Bill Pullman, Susan Sarandon, David Schwimmer, Liv Tyler, Istvan Szabo, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis.

The high-profile galas will be held at Roy Thomson Hall (venue for tonight’s “Journey” screening), one of the only venues some distance from the main corridor of action on Bloor Street.

Also on the program

Other galas on the Toronto agenda include the world premiere Friday of “Me Myself I,” the Sony Pictures Classics release starring Rachel Griffiths, as well as Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil,” with Skeet Ulrich, Tobey Maguire and pop singer Jewel.

Other galas include “American Beauty,” toplining Bening; helmer Hallstrom’s adaptation of novelist John Irving’s “The Cider House Rules”; Istvan Szabo’s “Sunshine,” with Ralph Fiennes and Rosemary Harris; the North American bow of Woody Allen’s jazz-flavored “Sweet and Lowdown,” starring Sean Penn as a mercurial musician; and “Jakob the Liar”, a dramatic tale featuring Williams as a Jewish cafe owner in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The Sales Office remains the focus of much of the buying and selling action at the Toronto festival, and there will be over 450 buyers and sales agents, including 60 new companies, making the trek to Toronto this year.

Event continues until Sept. 18, with 319 films unspooling, including 171 world and North American premieres.