TORONTO — Some film and music fans are demanding answers and refunds from the Toronto International Film Festival after Drake failed to appear at an opening-night screening.
But while she understands their disappointment, TIFF's vice president of public affairs said ticket-holders won't get their money back: "When it comes to any talent or special guest, things happen. The sale of the ticket is not dependent on that," Andrea Grau said Friday.
Ryerson University student Ethan Ryan was among those caught by surprise when he and his girlfriend learned Thursday afternoon that the superstar would skip the Canadian premiere of "Monsters and Men," for which Drake serves as executive producer.
The 18-year-old said he shelled out $215 for two tickets to the drama solely because of Drake.
"I know it was a screening for a fantastic film, probably, but we got the tickets because TIFF advertised Drake would be there," said Ryan, who added that he skipped a university lecture for the event. He ended up selling his movie tickets.
"I want them to apologize. I think they should offer a credit to see something else at the festival. This was the most expensive movie at TIFF — the opening night and closing night are both over $100 per ticket."
Festival organizers had touted Drake's appearance as one of the bigger events on Thursday's star-packed first day. The "In My Feelings" performer was also pegged to help launch an art installation at the festival's headquarters, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Instead, the screening featured a videotaped address in which Drake apologized for not attending. He offered no explanation other than that he was "on tour right now."
"I wish I could be there to share this moment," he said in a brief introduction for the drama, which follows the aftermath of a police shooting that kills a black man in Brooklyn.
Drake performed in Montreal on Wednesday and was set to play Boston on Friday. His website listed Thursday as a night off. A representative for Drake declined to offer further explanation.
It's the second time in recent weeks that Drake has cancelled on Toronto.
In August, he pulled out of his first tour date in the city "due to scheduling commitments" and has yet to announce a new date.
Lisa LaRocca and Shivana Bliss were among those let down by both cancellations.
Bliss said she spent $99 for a TIFF membership and then $200 for tickets for herself and her 13-year-old son. They learned of the cancellation through social media, and wondered why they weren't told by TIFF or Ticketmaster: "It would've been good customer service just to let people know — even if they weren't willing to offer a refund," she said.
Meanwhile, LaRocca said she and four friends travelled from Hamilton to see Drake at TIFF, even though she had been burned just weeks earlier when his concert was scrapped.
"It's kind of a joke. Two things in a row within a couple weeks of each other in Toronto? That's pretty crazy," said LaRocca, adding that nevertheless hasn't dimmed her ardour for the chart-topper.
"Whoever schedules him, whoever his people are, are not doing their job."
She learned of the TIFF cancellation when a coworker pointed out a news story Thursday afternoon.
"We're from Hamilton so we were almost leaving when we found out. It was late afternoon so we knew we had to come, especially since we spent so much."
Grau said she herself only learned of the cancellation at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Organizers first began to notify photographers who were responding to the event's guest list, after which news quickly began to spread. Media that inquired were sent Drake's statement once TIFF's communications team received it, and they relied on reporters to spread the word, Grau said.
As for whether ticket-holders got their money's worth, she notes that key cast members were at the screening, and that ticket-holders got a T-shirt and access to an opening night party that included an open bar and food.
"If the entire cast doesn't come and everyone who is presenting the film doesn't come, that's a completely different scenario," said Grau.
"The value of their ticket was not based solely on Drake's appearance. Whether they purchased it for that purpose is a different story."