The jam-packed opening of the Cockatoo Island Film Festival was marred by complaints of poor organisation last night.
The organisers of the $2 million event, making its debut on Sydney Harbour, had to cope with too many patrons wanting to watch Paul Thomas Anderson's Hollywood drama The Master.
At least 100 people who could not get into the cinema, including buyers of movie and party tickets costing $120, were sent to the bar for free drinks. Many went home early.
There were also teething problems with the island as a new venue for a film festival, including confusion about seating and long queues for food and drinks.
The organisers spent more than $800,000 creating three cinemas, two "educational hubs" and an outdoor concert venue for the five-day event, which includes movies, concerts, talks, a yacht race and other activities.
"Upon arrival to the island there were no signs, no directions, no marshals or stewards to guide us through the labyrinth of former shipbuilding sheds, disused docks and tunnels as everyone tried to work out where the hell the three cinemas were located," said Christian Mathis, an invited guest who caught the ferry home when he could not get into a cinema.
He also felt the food and bar were overpriced and understocked.
Fairfax writer George Palathingal said there was confusion about seating in the cinema and the allocation of wristbands, the plastic chairs were too uncomfortable for a two-hour movie, "let alone one with a half-hour intro", and there were long, slow-moving queues for "overpriced drinks and popcorn".
Others felt the island was an atmospheric venue, the new cinemas were impressive and the ferry travel was easier than expected.
"It was a great film and it was pretty special to see it on Cockatoo Island," said the organiser of a rival festival who asked not to be named. "I thought the set-up was impressive and the projection was crisp."
The Cockatoo Island festival's co-creative director, Stavros Kazantzidis, said on 702 Sydney they were "a victim of our own success".
He estimated that 100 people did not get to see the film but that 90 per cent of festival-goers were invited guests rather than ticket-buyers.
Kazantzidis and co-creative director Allanah Zitserman have run Hunter Valley's Dungog Film Festival for the past five years.
They have launched the festival on the Sydney Harbour Island with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, NSW Mining and Hoyts as their main sponsors and $500,000 of their own funds.