Hobbit tickets secretly sold months ago
The Embassy Theatre let fans queue for hours to buy tickets for The Hobbit's first public screening, despite knowing for two months they had all been secretly sold.
Some fans queued from before 6pm on Tuesday to make sure they were first in line when the theatre's box office opened at midnight. Most, if not all, were after tickets to the first public screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, on the Embassy's huge screen at 12.01am on December 12.
The Kent Tce cinema is widely regarded as the home of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But some of the gloss was taken off that reputation when fans found out Positively Wellington Tourism - a city-council-funded organisation - had spent $14,000 buying up all the tickets to the gala first screening eight weeks ago.
Some of the 60 fans who queued for tickets, many from the New Zealand chapter of the Tolkien Society, struggled to contain their emotions after hearing the bad news.
After they vented their fury online, frantic discussions began between PWT, Peter Jackson's Wingnut Films, Roadshow, and Event Cinemas, which runs the Embassy, in an attempt to sort out the debacle. They agreed that 120 tickets would be given to the 60 people who had queued, plus others.
But Wellington IT worker David Murray, who waited at the cinema from 5.45pm till midnight on Tuesday, was still furious.
Embassy staff had taken his details about two months ago, and he had\been a regular visitor since, often talking about wanting to see the movie "in that same experience the people at the [November 28] premiere were getting".
He showed The Dominion Post an email he sent to the Embassy in mid-October stating he wanted first screening seats "in the first row immediately behind the last row of luxury seats".
He was told by the theatre that it did not then have session times available and tickets could not be reserved.
"However, when you come in, we will of course try to seat you as close as possible to your ideal seating preference, " it said. The fact that the theatre knew tickets were sold out and failed to tell anyone was "deception", Mr Murray said.
Even as he waited on Tuesday night, there was no indication that the first screening had sold out. "[It is] false marketing, false advertising."
Event Cinemas general manager Carmen Switzer said the cinema would shoulder the blame.
"It is hugely regrettable and I sincerely apologise for the disappointment fans experienced queuing last night. We should have communicated that the first public screening in the main Embassy Theatre was 3am and the 12.01 tickets were for the [smaller] deluxe theatres only."
PWT general manager Sarah Meikle said that, on top of the 120 tickets guaranteed to fans yesterday, 600 more would be given away in a raffle. "We hope people understand our heart is in the right place in planning a special event to which a cinema of tickets will be gifted to fans."
The 120 tickets would be distributed in consultation with Tolkien Society New Zealand chapter founder Jack Machiela, one of those who missed out yesterday morning.
Mr Machiela, a Lord of the Rings tour guide by day, was pleased to have been contacted by Jackson spokesman Matt Dravitzki, but was still fuming at the Embassy's treatment of fans, some of whom had come from Germany and Brazil so they could be among the first in the world to see The Hobbit.
Mr Dravitzki said, after hearing about the debacle yesterday morning, the original plan had been to host a private screening for fans in Miramar.
However, after discussions with PWT and the fans, the solution of giving them tickets to the Embassy screening was decided on.
Reading Courtenay and Roxy Cinema in Miramar also have a 12.01am screening on December 12. Both still had tickets available yesterday. Online sales for the Roxy screening begin this morning.
The Dominion Post