Edinburgh Film festival tickets unsold with hours to go

HUNDREDS of tickets for the gala opener of the Edinburgh International Film Festival were still on sale last night – hours ahead of new artistic director Chris Fujiwara’s relaunch of the event.

Two-for-the-price-of-one ticket offers were being run for the UK premiere of Killer Joe ahead of its unveiling at the 1,900-capacity Festival Theatre tonight.

Meanwhile, it also emerged that one of the festival’s main draws, Robert Carlyle, who was due to appear at an “in person” event this weekend, has pulled out due to illness.

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It is the latest blow for the event just days after it emerged that Japanese film-maker Shinya Tsukamoto was unable to attend, due to a family bereavement.

A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm Robert Carlyle is ill and is unable to attend. We will obviously be offering refunds for the special event this weekend.”

Killer Joe director William Friedkin and one of the film’s stars, Gina Gershon, are expected at the venue along with other big-name figures like Jim Broadbent and Elliott Gould, who have agreed to chair prize juries this year.

Friedkin and Fujiwara were joining forces at the Filmhouse Cinema for a special pre-festival screening of the veteran director’s classic thriller, The French Connection, and a Q&A.

Tonight’s gala, which starts at 5pm, is a crucial event for the festival as it attempts to get back on track following its badly received “rethink” of the long-running showcase in 2011.

Friedkin has described the film – which revolves around a young drug dealer persuaded to murder his mother for insurance money – as “about the good and evil in everyone, the struggle for our better angels to triumph over our demons”.

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The festival’s red carpet will be making a comeback tonight after being controversially banned last year, while the National Museum of Scotland will be hosting a lavish after-show party.

Among the other guests due to appear tonight are Scottish actors Ewen Bremner, Gary Lewis and Kate Dickie, as well as broadcaster Edith Bowman, who is also one of this year’s jury members.

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A host of big-name stars are expected at the festival’s closing gala, which is officially the European premiere of Disney-Pixar film Brave, although it will have been seen at a number of other festivals before then.

Stars Kelly MacDonald, Kevin McKidd and Robbie Coltrane are all expected to attend at the moment.

However, while all tickets for Brave have been snapped up, there is still widespread availability for tonight.

A spokeswoman for the festival said: “There are still tickets available for tonight, but that might be to do with the size of the venue.

“We don’t usually say when events are sold out, as tickets are always made available on the day of the event, to festival delegates and then to members of the public if there are any left.”

Critics have warmly received this year’s programme, particularly for the strength of its international films.

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Some 121 new feature films are in the programme, around double last year’s total, while 76 UK premieres are in the line-up.

Among the expected highlights are the new IRA thriller Shadow Dancer by Man on Wire director James Marsh and new horror Lovely Molly, by Blair Witch Project’s co-director Eduardo Sanchez.

Carlyle was due in town to unveil his new film set in the Britpop era, California Solo.