A film festival is about more than just the films and the festival center. It is about the location, the journey, the experience. Here on Deadline, we’ll be bringing you updates on what it’s like to be on the ground at the Venice Film Festival, which continues on schedule for a second year in a row despite the pandemic disrupting other events.
Wednesday September 1. Day 1 of the festival.
After a relatively calm couple of days as Venice Film Festival delegates started to arrive on the Lido, this morning’s first press and industry screening—of Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers at 8:30AM—started without its full complement of ticket holders, who were held up by COVID and security checks at the various entry points to the festival zone.
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Deadline arrived at one of these checkpoints, outside the Quattro Fontane hotel, at around 8AM, to find a large queue waiting to go through. The line moved slowly until there was about five minutes to spare, at which point the police manning the checkpoint seemed to rush the rest of the line through. But the movie started right on time, and the second queue outside the Darsena only grew as more people made it past the first hurdle. After the lights dimmed, latecomers were let in one by one and shown to their seats. We both found our reserved seats occupied.
Venice’s ticketing system has been designed to take the stress out of screenings: at the point of booking, delegates choose a seat in the theater. But with our seats occupied and the film already on the screen, ushers instructed one of us to find another empty seat—the other interloper vacated without much struggle.
This was all in stark contrast to last year’s festival save for one day, which was a relatively hassle-free experience. These kinds of teething troubles are likely to be resolved on future mornings; delegates who were “late” today will simply know tomorrow to be within the festival exclusion zone with at least a half-hour to spare before screenings start. With multiple entrances to the festival zone, delegates may be well advised to try and find the least populous one.
One thing seems sure, though: as we speculated yesterday, this year’s festival is a busier affair than last year’s, even if numbers aren’t yet back to pre-pandemic levels. Passholders get three strikes on ticket bookings that they don’t end up using. With this morning’s choice out of many attendees’ hands, it remains to be seen whether the festival will penalize those delegates who couldn’t make it through the doors at all. Deadline has reached out to the festival for comment.