Winning the ‘Rush’ Line for Festival Tickets

Is a HIFF film ever really "sold out"?
One way of assuring entrance to the films and events you want to see at HIFF is to line up at Obligato in East Hampton on the day tickets go on sale. Those missing out have other options available. Jennifer Landes

You may have seen the lines at the box office at Obligato in East Hampton Village on the first day of ticket sales for the Hamptons International Film Festival. Did you think, “Oh, now I’ll never get into anything, all the things I want to see will sell out”?

That might be correct on the face of it, but it is also mostly wrong. David Nugent, the artistic director of the festival, said HIFF holds back a number of seats per screening and events to account for its Founder Pass holders, who must be in line to be seated 15 minutes ahead of time.

“We guess how popular a film is and what the demand for seats will be,” he said. Through an imprecise calculus, the organizers estimate how many pass holders will show up. “We overestimate to get everyone [who holds a ticket] in.” It might be 100 seats for a popular film in a prime time slot, or 65 for something smaller. 

Once the pass holders are in and their number has been tallied, any remaining seats go on sale at full price to those standing in what is known as the rush line in the order of their place in line. 

“Because we try to overestimate for every screening at the festival, people not holding tickets often can get in,” Mr. Nugent said. Last year, he said only two screenings or events did not have rush tickets available. Popular films and award winners such as “Call Me by Your Name” and “The Shape of Water” had 40 and 25 rush tickets purchased, respectively. “LBJ,” which was one of the most popular films at HIFF last year, had 12 rush tickets purchased for a prime-time screening.

Mr. Nugent suggested getting to the rush line a half-hour before regular sold-out screenings, and 45 minutes ahead of time to help the odds of getting into the most popular events. He also pointed out on Friday that plenty of films and all of the conversations, which this year feature Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emilio Estevez, and Damien Chazelle, still have tickets available.

The festival offers a few packages aside from the Founders Pass that will allow the purchase of tickets a couple of days before individual sales. A filmmaker discovery package offers six tickets to general films or panels and two tickets to spotlight films for $150. A companion package offers eight tickets to general films and four tickets to spotlight films, plus two tickets to either the opening or closing night film and two tickets for an official HIFF event. Those packages went on sale earlier in the year, but can be purchased as well during the week after the films are announced but before individual tickets are available.