Film-fest website crash causes some headaches

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 12, 2011 - 10:58 PM

Two days before festival begins, MSPIFF schedule pages are back up, but online ticketing is problematic.

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This year's bigger-than-ever Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival is experiencing growing pains. The organization's website crashed Sunday afternoon. The main Web page and film schedule were back up Monday night but as of Tuesday evening -- just two days before opening night -- the online ticketing function remained spotty for users of some browsers.

"We've been working on adjusting our site," said MSPIFF Executive Director Susan Smoluchowski. Programmer Ryan Oestreich was up at 5 a.m. Tuesday answering e-mails and phone calls about the situation. "Technical difficulties are trying to trip us up."

"I'm frustrated and a little crazy right now," said N. Jeanne Burns, a south Minneapolis writer, film-festival devotee for more than 10 years and a former fundraiser for the organization.

"It takes me a long time to go through all the film descriptions and work out all the schedule conflicts. I was right in the middle of that Sunday and it all of a sudden went down. And it was down for two days."

This year's schedule, with a third week of programming and a slate of 240 features and shorts, may have generated higher than usual Web traffic.

"We had over 10,000 hits in a very short space of time," Smoluchowski said. MSPIFF has also sold more all-you-can-see $300 Gold Passes than ever before. In the two weeks before the festival, more than 300 were purchased, Smoluchowski said. In the crucial days leading up to the kickoff, however, passes, discount packs and individual tickets were unavailable online.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Smoluchowski said, "people have called me this afternoon, and e-mailed, to say they were able to buy tickets online." Those experiencing difficulty, she said, may call 612-331-7563 or go to the box office at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.

Buying this year's Gold Pass requires an extra step as a photo of the holder is taken onsite at the festival's St. Anthony Main headquarters and is laminated to the card. "We'll have special lines for Gold Pass purchasers," Smoluchowski said.

In addition, the festival is using state-of-the-art digital projection equipment, "the babies that Tribeca and Sundance use," Oestreich said. The St. Anthony Main theaters will be upgraded so that every auditorium is equipped with stereo surround-sound.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

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