Monday, March 11, 2019

TCMFF Survival Guide Part 1, How TCMFF Works

This will be my sixth year attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), held April 11 to 14, 2019. In addition, I have been going to Comic-Con and other fan conventions for decades, so I know what it’s like to spend four or five days in a strange city living out of a hotel room and running around from the time you get up in the morning until the time you collapse in your room late at night. 

This is, I think, the fifth version of this guide I've done. I've tried to refine things over the years. This year, I've decide to split this post up into three parts:

  • Part 1 (this part) covers the nuts and bolts of how TCMFF works. 
  • Part 2 will cover making the most of your experience and will also contain links to other similar posts past and present. I will do my best to update with new links as I find them. 
  • Part 3 will covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF

Pass levels

I've never addressed this before, but seeing how many questions I see on the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group page, I thought I would give it a shot. Bear in mind this is kind of a dumbed-down version of what's on the official TCM Classic Film Festival page, the definitive source of all of this information. As I am writing this, all pass levels are sold out. I believe they finally sold out the lower levels of passes in late February. From top to bottom, the pass levels break down this way (prices reflect 2019 pricing):

  • Spotlight Pass ($2149). A few years ago this pass-level sold out very quickly. The following year, the price of this level was raised significantly, and now it sells out over a period of weeks, not hours/minutes. This level gets you all benefits of the Essential Pass plus the following:
    • Priority entry to screenings (separate line that goes in first, does not guarantee you a seat if the theater is full)
    • Entry to the Opening Night Gala Party following the official Opening Night Red Carpet Gala screening, and guaranteed seating to Opening Night Red Carpet Screening itself
    • Two complimentary glasses of TCM wine per day (Thursday-Sunday) in Club TCM (New for 2019)
    • 20% discount on items purchased at the Festival boutique (New for 2019)
    • Meet-and-greet events
    • Limited edition TCM Classic Film Festival poster
  • Essential Pass ($799). If memory serves me, this level of pass sold out in about 20 minutes this year. You might think selling out quickly is a good thing. It is not. In a perfect world, you would want everybody to purchase the level of pass they want. Think about it. If you got a phone call right when tickets went on sale, you might not be too late to purchase an Essential Pass. I would not be surprised if the price of Essential passes goes up fairly significantly next year. This level gets you all benefits of the Classic Pass plus the following:
    • Entry to the official Opening Night Red Carpet Gala screening at the TCL Chinese Theatre but not the party afterwards
    • TCMFF swag bag (gift bag)
  • Classic Pass ($649). In all of the years I have attended, I have attended on a Classic Pass or a Media Pass (pretty much the same thing as a Classic Pass). This pass level gets you the following.
    • Access to all film programs but does not include the Opening Night Red Carpet Gala screening nor the Opening Night Gala Party afterwards
    • Access to Club TCM events, panels and poolside screenings at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
    • Opening Night welcome reception on early evening Thursday at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
    • Closing Night party on Sunday at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
  • Palace Pass ($299). This pass is good for Friday through Sunday only and only includes screenings at the TCL Chinese IMAX, the Egyptian, and Poolside screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This level does not include screenings at the TCL Chinese Multiplex. The TCMFF web site does not say whether or not it includes screenings at the newly added Legion Theater Venue. My guess is that it would not, but that is a question for TCM. The Palace Pass does not include Club TCM events nor the official parties at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
  • Individual Tickets. After all passholders have been seated, any open seats will be sold on a first come, first served, standby basis. The TCMFF web site lists more details. I know the price of individual tickets was $20 or $25 a few years ago. I'm not sure whether the price has gone up since then, but I assume it would have, but probably not outrageously so. I do remember seeing a tweet recently that last year individual ticket holders got in late and often missed the film introductions. Your mileage may vary.
Again, I do want to stress that I make no claim that the above information is definitive. You should always consult the TCM Classic Film Festival web site for details on passes.

Line numbers

When you get in line for a screening, you will be given a number in the order you enter the line, this means you can leave the line and go do something if need be, use the rest room, or grab a snack. I would check to see when they're going to move the line. Usually the people giving out the numbers have a good idea. That way you know how much time you have. You need to make sure you get back in in line before your number moves in. They will not hold a seat for you just because you have a number. Take advantage of it when you can. It could be the difference between a sandwich for dinner and Jujubes.

It's really simple if the line doesn't get messed up, which does happen sometimes. Say you and the person you're with get line numbers and want to leave to get popcorn. You get back to the line and figure out where your number should be. Most people put the numbers in the pocket of their badge, so you can usually see where you need to go. If you need to ask someone what number they are, go ahead. People are really good about helping you out. Say you and the person you're with have numbers 75 and 76. You find the people closest to yours. It might be 72 and 77. So you get in line in front of 77 and behind 72, knowing that 73 and 74 have to get back in line in front of you.

If you get in line and decide to just stay in line, it's better if you do not squish the line forward. There's are always going to be people who will need to get back in ahead of you. Sometimes the line will be really full, and you might not want to make it worse. Just figure out where you need to be and find out who has the numbers around yours. Then when the line starts to move you can get back in at the proper spot.


The important thing to keep in mind about the venues is where they are and how big they are. I’ve arranged the venues more or less in order by how close they are to the Roosevelt Hotel, since that is the host hotel:

  • Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – Home to Club TCM and the Poolside screenings. Club TCM is where a most of the guest interviews and special programs will be. In years past, there was a fairly low stage, rows of chairs and a standing area behind the chairs. If you’re at the back of the standing area, you might not be able to see very well. If there is an event that is really important to you, make sure you get there extra early. The pool is just that a swimming pool with a screen at the one end.  Everybody says get there extra early if you want one of the lounge chairs. I've only been to a coupled of the poolside screenings.
  • Chinese Theatre IMAX (920 seats) – This is the old Grauman’s Chinese theater. If you cross Hollywood Blvd. from The Roosevelt, you’re there. Okay, it's down a little bit, but it is very close. For lines, they usually run some Disneyland-style switchbacks in front of the theater and then up the stairs up into the Hollywood and Highland mall. Don’t panic if the line goes back a long way. It’s a big theater. In the past I've seen the line wind through the mall, out the side of the mall and almost all the way back to the front of the theater, and I still got in.
  • TCL Chinese 6 Theatres is located inside the Hollywood and Highland mall. They are using two screens this year. The thing to keep in mind here is House 6 is fairly small, and it's  the most likely to fill up and have to turn people away. Gone this year is the dreaded 177-seat House 4, which was often had to turn people away. Very good news, although the replacement theater is about a fifteen minute walk away. Also note that the seating capacity of the TCL Multiplex theaters seems to have changed since last year. Possibly, they redesigned the seating:
    • House 1 (448 Seats, was listed as 477 Seats in 2018)
    • House 6 (266 Seats, was listed as 210 Seats in 2018)
  • Egyptian Theatre (618 Seats) – Great old theater, built in the early 1920s. Personally, I like sitting in the balcony because you get a better view of the Egyptian frescos in the ceiling. The balcony isn't always open. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either two very long blocks or about four normal size blocks away, so allow yourself some extra time to get there. Google Maps says it's a 6 minute walk from the Hollywood Roosevelt to the Egyptian. Don't count on it, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when there are a lot of tourists on Hollywood Blvd.
  • Legion Theater at Post 43 (484 Seats). This is a new venue this year, located at 2035 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068. This is a newly refurbished historical theater in the American Legion Post 43. Never been there, but the pictures look way cool.  According to Google Maps, the distance from the Hollywood Roosevelt to Legion Theater is 0.6 miles (compared to 0.3 miles to the Egyptian) Google Maps calls it a 12 minute walk. The TCMFF web site calls it a 15 to 20 walk. It should be possible to cut through Hollywood Highland mall, and you might shave time off that, hard to say. Also you can go almost the entire way without dealing with Hollywood Blvd craziness. That might save some time as well.
  • Other venues. In years past, TCMFF has held a small number of events at other venues. For example, The Montalbán Theatre (500 Seats) was used for live interviews they plan to tape and run on TCM later. I'm guessing they would do the same this year. In addition, the ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome (596 seats) has been used for Cinerama screenings for the last couple of years. We probably will not know about other venues until later. I will do my best to make updates later, but I do have a full-time job, and a life, umm, sort of.

Unofficial Events

If you have have the ability to come in a day or two early and/or stay a day or two late, there is other stuff going on, but not necessarily affiliated with official Festival. This is new information, and I can't really claim that his is an exhaustive list. I have always come up on  Wednesday before TCMFF and left on the Monday afterwards. This year for the first time I am coming in on the Tuesday. There are number of people who come in early and for me this will be a chance to hang out with my TCMFF buds an extra day. Personally, I'm trying to make plans to meet up with some of my Twitter #TCMParty cronies to have lunch at Musso and Frank's on Tuesday. In addition, other events include:

  • Tuesday, April 9, 6:30-9:30 pm. Fashion in Film of TCMFF 2019, Hosted by Kimberly Truhler. Ticketed event, but tickets were still available as I wrote this at There seems to be a discrepancy on the start time between what Kimberly's Facebook Event page says and the eventbrite page.
  • Wednesday, April 10, 3:30-8:00 pm, Hollywood Roosevelt Poolside, Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group Going to TCMCFF Pre-Fest Party 2019.
  • Thursday, April 11, Twitter, #TCMParty meetup. No official word on this one, but it almost always happens on Thursday afternoon in between Club TCM Thursday Events. On Twitter, monitor the #TCMFF and #TCMParty hashtags for details.
  • Thursday, April 11, Hollywood Forever TCMFF Cemetery Tour, two tours, 10:00 am-12:30 pm and 1:00-3:30 pm. Details on Facebook or
  • Other events. There are a number of other events that you might want to be aware of. To be honest, living in San Diego, I'm not incredibly dialed in on the LA classic movie scene, so this list probably has numerous omissions. But it does have some ideas to get you started. Google is your best friend here. The ones that come to mind off the top of my head are:
    • First and foremost, the TCM Film Locations Tour is run in conjunction with TCMFF. It might be sold out at this point, but if available worth the time. Details at
    • Warner Brother Studio Classics Tour. Again may be sold out, but worth looking into. I've never done this one myself but I've heard good things on it. Details at
    • New Beverly Cinema often shows something cool and classic to coincide with TCMFF. Might be a bit early for April schedule to be posted, but you can check back later. Details at:
  • Finally, a few years ago I did some posts on TCMFF Sidetrips:
Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of my TCMFF Survival Guide Posts to come.

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