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The staff of The Salt Lake Tribune covers the Sundance Film Festival, on the streets of Utah and beyond.

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Sundance eWaitlist prompts complaints, headaches for festival goers

The Sundance Film Festival debuted an electronic waitlist this year for would-be attendees without tickets, and after the first weekend many attendees are giving the new system two thumbs down.

During the opening weekend, I saw two films using the new eWaitlist. And both times, everyone in line seemed to be complaining about the system. Curious to know if those reactions were indicative of a larger trend, I went to Twitter, where I found even more complaints. A sample of those responses is included in the gallery above. In fairness, there were a few positive responses as well, but they were few and far between.

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The system and the problems it has created prompted The Verge to write Monday that "it works so well that it ruins something fundamental about your experience."

Here are what seem to be the main complaints, as I both experienced them and listened to others express frustration:

• Downed servers sometimes made it difficult or impossible to get on the list.

• Registering is a small but unnecessary pain; requiring names, emails, passwords, etc. seems to be solving a security problem that never existed. It’s a movie, after all, not a flight.

• It’s too easy to cheat; when you get a good number, you can just take a screen shot of your phone, with the name of the film scrolled out of view, and use that image at other films. Volunteers check the numbers, but as long as there aren’t duplicates, it’s apparently easy to get away with this. You can also help a friend out: if you text them a picture of your waitlist slot, they can probably get away with using that picture instead of their own number. I saw several people doing this and it seems to be much easier than going to Kinkos and photocopying one of the old papers the festival used in years passed.

• The old paper system rewarded people who worked the hardest to get into films. As per the Verge post, the new eWaitlists immediately fill up and consequently reward whomever randomly has the fastest Internet connection. It takes the fun out of working to get into that hard-to-see film.

• And finally, it’s now impossible to see films with more than one other person. Under the old paper system, a group of friends could show up and get consecutive numbers. That meant they’d usually either all get in or all be left out. But with the eWaitlist system, it’s only possible to get a number next to one other person. And because the lists fill up immediately, half a group can be at the front of a line while the other half is at the end. That makes waiting in line less fun and means you may get in while your friends have to wait outside for two hours.

Those last two points appeared to be the biggest complaints among the people I saw in line. And while things like server problems can be fixed, those other problems are more fundamental.

Which is sad; for years I’ve loved the fun, weird camaraderie of the Sundance waitlist line. This weekend, however, the system was such a pain that I may be done for the year.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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