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Personal message from Clare Stewart

Dear Members,

Some of you may have been directly impacted by, or aware of, the ticketing problems we had last Thursday 12th September when we launched the BFI London Film Festival members’ priority booking. I want to personally apologise again for the inconvenience to members who’ve been affected and thank you all for your patience and understanding in bearing with us through a very difficult day and its consequences.

I want to explain what happened, without getting too technical, as I do believe we owe you an explanation as well as an apology. On 9.30am on Thursday as we opened member priority booking, people were unable to process card payments through online, phone and counter sales. This was due to a system overload with our payment gateway provider and 3-D Secure (a protocol newly implemented this year, following testing, that has been running successfully for BFI Southbank ticketing for some months). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-D_Secure

In essence, demand exceeded our provider’s capacity and the new 3-D secure function unexpectedly overloaded the processing, causing the system to crash. We worked hard with our suppliers to try and resolve the issues as a matter of priority and urgency. With the exception of 3-D Secure, our ticketing system was the same operationally and technically for LFF 2012, during which we did not experienced an issue with overload, so we were confident that our ticketing system was robust enough to cope with an exceptionally high demand for tickets.

We succeeded in restoring sales in person (at BFI Southbank) and via phone fairly quickly that morning and took the decision to keep these booking channels open while the online problems were fixed so members could continue to purchase tickets in recognition that many had set aside time that day to make their purchases. We also kept our phone lines and in person booking open for an extended period to accommodate the extra demand (from 8.30pm closing until 10.30pm). Members were made aware of these options via direct email, the BFI website and social media immediately.

Resolving the online technical issues took far longer than we had initially anticipated as the payment gateway provider needed to fully test their solution and we needed to be confident that the online ticketing system could be reinstated securely. We were able to reintroduce online booking at 7.30pm, alerting members as soon as we could via the same channels. We have worked around the clock since Thursday to try and accommodate all those members who lost their online baskets due to this technical issue and are now confident we have responded to everyone who contacted us with ticket requests during the period the online booking system was down on Thursday 12th.

The good news is that as of yesterday, Monday 16th September, members have accessed over 40,000 tickets in this short priority period, despite Thursday’s outage. Of course, this does not mean everyone has got everything they want (as is often the case for our hot ticket films), but it does indicate that access has been restored. We do have considerable availability still for many screenings and hope you will be able to book the tickets you want for the festival during this member priority period. As I said in my apology note on Thursday, we are so proud of this year’s festival line-up and eager to deliver great cinema to our valued members.

I appreciate that an explanation, like an apology, does not erase the fact it happened, but I do hope it demonstrates that we understand the gravity of the situation and take your understandable concerns very seriously. In the light of that, we are grateful for your continued patronage and relieved that we have been able to catch-up on your ticket requests. We now look forward to being able to focus our dialogue with you squarely in the right place: the Festival programme and the wonderful films we have on offer from 9-20 October.

My very best regards,

Clare Stewart
Head of Cinemas and Festivals
Festival Director, BFI London Film Festival

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