Wednesday, February 23, 2022

TCMFF Survival Guide Part 2 – Making the Most of Your Experience

This will be my seventh year attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), held April 21 to 24, 2022. 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 the sixth version of this guide I've done. I've tried to refine things over the years and have decided to split this post up into three parts:

  • Part 1 covers the nuts and bolts of how TCMFF works. 
  • Part 2 (this part) covers 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 covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF

What This Guide Will Not Cover

COVID-19 Restrictions, Processes, Mask Guidelines, etc. will not be addressed in this guide. At the time of this writing, the information on the TCMFF website was sparse and contained almost no specifics. However, the site says that TCM will continue to "monitor best practices and adhere to any required safety measures" and "will release a more detailed plan closer to the Festival." I am not going to attempt summarize or clarify this plan. When the plan is posted, I encourage everyone to read it closely and take appropriate steps accordingly. If they say that you need a certain type of mask that fits your face in a certain way, don't show up with a bandana like you're robbing the stage in a John Ford movie. In January 2022, I did a post on what the COVID guidelines might look like based on those at Comic-Con Special Edition in San Diego in November 2021 and what movie theaters in Los Angeles/Hollywood were doing in January 2022. That post can be found here. Bear in mind that this information is speculative and may ultimately be wildly inaccurate when we are closer to April. Look for the TCMFF COVID-19 plan when it releases. Read it, and follow it.



This section covers TCMFF etiquette. The most important thing to do is silence your phone and other devices during screenings and do not take them out to post pictures, answer a text, or whatever. You might think it would be cool to take a picture of the movie title onscreen to post for your friends.


There a people sitting next to you and behind you who are trying to enjoy the film. Just the light from your phone as you bring it up and try to find an app is insanely distracting in a dark theater. I usually put my phone in both Silent and Airplane modes during screenings. For me, most people who would be trying to contact me know I'm at TCMFF, so if I get a text, I tend to think it's an emergency and worry about it, not that I would be able to doing anything while I'm in Hollywood anyway.

It's okay to tweet, post to Facebook, Instagram, whatever while you're waiting in line or sitting in the theater waiting for things to begin. Once somebody starts talking, finish up what you're doing and put it away. Taking pictures/video during the intro is fine, but turn off the flash. It's distracting, especially to the people talking, and won't help if you're farther than about 10 feet away.

Be considerate of those around you. It's generally considered rude to leave before the end of a screening, but sometimes it's unavoidable. If you have to duck out early, try to get to the event you are leaving from extra early and get seat on the aisle so you don't have to climb over people. If you know you need to leave at a certain time, wear a watch. A watch screen is way less distracting than your Galaxy S21.

[A couple of related updates from Facebook comments. Thanks Colin and Danny]:
  • Be aware of other phone functions such as Alarms which may still make noises even in Silent or Airplane modes.
  • Be aware of the people behind you. If you want to stand a take a selfie, do it before the intro starts. The intro is part of the screening. You might think it's cool to take a selfie with the speakers in the background, but you're messing it up for the people behind you.

I shouldn't have to say this but:
  • Don't talk during the movie.
  • Don't take any pictures during a screening. 
  • Don't check your phone for any reason during a screening. 
  • In an emergency, if you absolutely need to use your phone, go into the lobby. You're not going to be able to help anyone from a movie theater anyway.


If you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person, I wish you lots of luck. Me, I figure out the entire schedule ahead of time. Then I don't have to worry about it. I usually know any blocks I was iffy about and will be able to switch gears without dwelling on it. If you wait until, you get out of one movie to decide what you're going to see next, you may be too late by the time you get there.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to see, you should probably try to get to events a half hour ahead of the start time, possibly earlier. If it’s something you’d be crushed if you missed, shoot for an hour early, especially if it's in the smallest theater. This is the one that is likely to have to turn people away at certain times. They hadn't announced the TCL Chinese 6 theater sizes when I wrote this (only that they were using three screens), so I wasn't sure which theater that would be.

How do you get to the screening a half hour or more ahead of time? You should be able to figure out the end times by looking at the schedule. Anytime you have a longer break between events is a good opportunity to get some food that doesn’t come in a bucket with fake butter and salt. Do keep in mind that the smallest theater is going fill up fast, a half hour ahead of time might not be enough. Try to get there earlier if possible. This also counts for Club TCM events. In Club TCM, there are booths on the side and rows of chairs on floor near the fairly low stage. Toward the back of the room is a bar for standing, but once the room gets full you're may not be able to see well standing in the back.

One last thing, if you’re planning to change clothes between the daytime and nighttime screenings, figure out which break you’re going to use to go back to the hotel and change.

Ovation Mall (Formerly Hollywood Highland Mall)

The TCL Chinese 6 and the TCL Chinese IMAX are located in the Ovation Mall. You'll be spending a lot of time there. The mall is sort of a tourist mall. Most malls are fairly easy to get around in. This mall, not so much. It was designed so that you can explore, with an eye toward wandering around and getting lost. This means that you may not always be able to tell what level you're on or how to get up or down one level, or most importantly if you're on the correct level for the TCL Chinese 6. If you have a spare hour before the festival starts, go over and find the TCL Chinese and figure out how to get from there to the Chinese IMAX and how to get in and out of the mall itself. It should be easy. It’s not. Note any stairs and escalators you run across. The time you get lost is bound to be the time you have least time to spare. If you see any interesting fast food, see if they have a To Go menu. It might be the only hot meal you get some day. Note that there is construction going on at the Ovation mall, and this might affect some of this info. Fortunately, things like stairways and escalators are very expensive. You don't just rip them out or move them willy nilly, but you never know. They might be resurfacing or changing the hand rails.

If you cannot do stairs or escalators, I strongly suggest you go to the mall ahead of time and find the elevators. I've never taken them, but they have to have some.

Hollywood Blvd

Hollywood Blvd is a nightmare. Okay, let me clarify. Hollywood Blvd is a tourist trap, and that makes it a nightmare. The worst part of it is the stretch between N Orange Dr, where the Roosevelt is, and N Highland Ave. Yes, Hollywood Blvd does have its charm. Okay, charm is putting it a bit strong. The first time I was in Hollywood was in the early 90s, and the bloom was gone off the rose back then. I do get that there is some appeal to Hollywood Blvd like the history and the Sidewalk Stars, but during TCMFF, you're better off avoiding it as much as possible.

I avoid it simply because there's too many people in the way, people taking selfies, Party City Spiderman and others of his ilk trying to get you make a donation to take your picture with them, people trying to sell tours you don't have time for, panhandlers, you name it, all in your way when you're trying to get somewhere.  It's almost always better to find another way unless you're going to someplace right on Hollywood Blvd.

Right in the middle of tha stretch of Hollywood Blvd is the El Capitan Theatre. The El Capitan is Disney's flagship theater. The only reason I mention it (not one of the TCMFF theaters) is that there might be a premiere there that has nothing what-so-ever to do with TCMFF. It has happened in years past. The sidewalk might be closed or they might have you cross the street when you don't want to. Another reason to avoid it if you can. 

To be honest, west of Orange Dr and in particular east of Highland, Hollywood Blvd is really kind of cool and worth exploring, just you won't have much time during the Festival. Me, I've never felt unsafe on Hollywood Blvd, but admittedly, my tolerance for that might be higher than yours. I do keep my eyes open, and I suggest you do too. 

Getting Around at TCMFF

Probably the only good thing about not having the Egyptian Theater this year is that there is much less of a need to deal with Hollywood Blvd. That and most of the Festival is very close to together, with one one big exception, the Hollywood Legion Theater. If you look Google Maps, the distance from TCL Chinese IMAX to the Hollywood Legion Theater looks like it’s about 6 blocks, but if you look at the way the surrounding streets are laid out, it’s a long 6 blocks.

The following map that is mostly to scale. The size of the buildings in relation to the streets could be off by bit. The map make it look simple. It isn't. The TCL Chinese IMAX is on the street level. The main level of the mall is up one level from street and the TCL Chinese 6 is up one level from the main level, I think. From different parts of the mall you may need go up more than one level to get to the same place. It's weird, but that's just the way it works. Note that the numbers in blue circles are entrances/exits to the mall. These are my numbers, just so the map would make sense. If you go up to someone in the mall and ask where entrance 5 is, they won't have a clue what you're talking about. There may be other entrances/exits. These are the ones I know about or could see from a Google Maps. I'm pretty sure there is an entrance to the mall from the Loews Hotel; if staying there, I would find that and figure out how to get to the TCL Chinese 6 and IMAX that way before everything starts. There might be a way to get into that mall from Orchid, but I've never gone that way, so I left it off.  Also I left off some streets that I didn't think would help you.

Going to TCL Chinese 6

  • From the Roosevelt, if you cross N Orange Dr and Hollywood Blvd, you'll be standing in front of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. If you follow the sidewalk to the left of the wax museum (north on Orange Dr.), you'll come to a traffic circle where tour buses line up. Coming from Franklin Ave., take Orange Drive south to the same spot. Follow the traffic circle around to the back, and there's an entrance to the mall up some stairs. If you go in this way, where you come into mall, there will two sets of stairs going up on the left. One goes to the mall business office. The other goes to the same level as the TCL Chinese 6, about 30 feet from the door. Find this stairway. It will save you a lot time.
  • From East of N Highland Ave (closer to Hollywood Blvd), go in through either Entrance 3 or 5. Entrance 4 might work just as well. I almost always used entrance 3. There's a set of stairs the go up from Highland Ave into the mall. Do not go in through entrance 6, it's longer and you'll spend way more time dodging people on Hollywood Blvd.
  • From East of N Highland Ave (closer to Franklin), simple, entrance 2. You should be able to see this entrance as you're coming south on Highland Ave.

Going to Chinese IMAX

The thing you need to think about with the Chinese IMAX is the way they run the lines. The Spotlight VIP line is in the Courtyard, and probably most of it, if not all, is contained there. The other passholder line starts in the courtyard, but only accommodates the first 40 or 50 people. After that, it restarts at the top of the escalator from the Chinese IMAX and winds through the mall and out entrance 1, down the traffic circle and back toward Madame Tussaud's. At least, that's the way they ran it previous years (post-COVID, who knows). Don't worry if it goes back that far. It's a huge theater. You'll probably still get in.

  • If have a Spotlight pass or if you're getting there an hour early, just go to the front of the theater on Hollywood Blvd, though if you're coming from Highland, you might still be better off going through the mall.
  • If you're coming from the Roosevelt/Orange Dr and you don't have a Spotlight pass and you're not getting there an hour early, come in through entrance 1. You'll probably hit the end of the line about the time you're coming into the mall.
  • If you're coming from Highland Ave, you're probably still better off coming through the mall (just to avoid Hollywood Blvd) and head toward the Chinese IMAX. You'll probably hit the line before you get there, and if you have a Spotlight pass, you can take the escalator down, show your badge, and get through that way.

Going to Hollywood Legion Theater

See map below. I didn't include most of the streets north of Franklin. They veer to the west and wouldn't help you anyway. It is a bit of a trek, and you are going up a bit of a hill on the way there. Google maps says it's 0.6 miles (Roosevelt Hotel to Legion Theater) compared to 0.3 miles (Roosevelt Hotel to Egyptian Theater, not being used this year). Google calls it a 14 minute walk. I do think you could shave a minute or two and maybe a tenth of a mile by taking Johnny Grant Way or cutting through the mall as indicated below. The TCMFF web site calls it a 15 to 20 minute walk.

From Hollywood Roosevelt, you have three options:

  • Go north up Orange across the Traffic Circle (really just a parking lot, you can walk straight across). The red line is Johnny Grant Way a service/access road/alley that connects Orange Dr to Orchid Ave. It doesn't seem to have any sidewalks so you'd need to keep an eye out for traffic especially at night. Then take Orchid north, right on Franklin, then left on Highland.
  • Go north up Orange to the Traffic Circle and into the mall at entrance 1 and out the mall at entrance 2. From there, you're almost on Highland and just go north to the theater.
  • Go north up Orange across the Traffic Circle to Franklin, turn right on Franklin, then left at Highland. Definitely longer but you don't have to deal with the mall or an access road.
  • I would not go Hollywood Blvd to Highland, because Hollywood Blvd, unless you're trying to pick up food or something on the way.
From the TCL Chinese 6 and IMAX, go through the mall and exit from entrance 2. Then north up Highland to the theater.

From east of Highland, just go north on Highland to the theater. Franklin jogs at Highland about a block north. Where it starts again is the last crosswalk if you're on the wrong side of the street. Highland's a pretty busy street. I don't think I'd want to j-walk it.

A few Legion Theater tips that I might or might not follow:
  • Someone suggested because of the distance, just going to all of the screenings at that venue to avoid having to go back and forth. I can't see going that route unless the schedule was very very cooperative. I might let it sway me if I was on the fence about a block and was already going to be up there.
  • There's not much in the way of food up that way, a Subway just north of where Franklin jogs on the east side of the street, and handful of restaurants, most of which are only open for dinner. I did hear good things about the food at the Legion Theater itself, and I do vaguely, remember that the sandwiches at the snack bar looked good.
  • Someone suggested that if going to the Legion theater at night, walk in packs. Me, I'd be more worried about crossing Franklin at night. Still, I think if you were heading there close to the time a screening was getting ready to start, there's bound to a dozen or more people heading there at the same time, so it's quite likely you would be in a pack already.


Take the time to read everything you can find on the website, Search for blog posts like this one. There are links to similar posts below. A good source of info is Twitter, follow @tcm and search on the #TCMFF hashtag. There will be lots of good tips there. Also you might want to join the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group (link at the end of this post). Google the people being listed as guests, you never know, you might be standing next to one of them at Starbucks, and it will give you something to talk about. If they are showing one of your all-time favorites, read the Wikipedia and IMDB pages about the film. You’re sure to pick up some interesting tidbits that most people don’t know. You can look smart to other people in line.

Smartphone App

Each year the festival does smartphone apps for iPhone and Android. If you have a smartphone, download it. They probably won't post it until fairly close to the Festival. Just know that it will be posted, and get it when available. The smartphone apps will contain pretty much everything in the TCMFF guide book, plus things like updates of late additions/changes and the titles for the To Be Announced (TBA) slots on Sunday. More on that later. 
Even if you don't think you would use it, download it anyway. You might get shut out on a screening and need to figure out a plan B on the fly. That would be one time you realize you left your guide book at the hotel. Me, I don't use it a whole lot as I'm usually on Twitter during TCMFF and can get much of the same info there. Also, phone battery life can be an issue, so I would rather save my battery for taking pictures and social media, when most of the info on the app duplicates what's in the TCMFF guide book that I'm already carrying anyway. Plus, I would rather read on paper than my phone. Then again, if you live on your phone, you'll rely more on the app.

TCMFF Guide Book

Each year, TCM publishes a guide book listing all of the films and other events, guest bios, and other valuable info. Everything you need to know about the festival will be in there. In the past, it has been printed in a small format, but I wouldn't call it pocket size, well, not unless you have very large pockets. Now, I know what your thinking. If everything is in the guide book, why do you need the app? Well, S*** Happens. Guest might get sick and have to cancel at the last minute. Maybe there's a new book coming out, and they don't know whether or not copies will be available for a signing at the time they go to press. And again the TBA screenings, I swear, I will get to that in this post. 

You can pick up your guide book when you arrive and get your pass/badge. Per the web site, passes will be available for Will Call pick up at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel beginning Wednesday, April 20th. 2022 festival passes cannot be shipped. I'm sure this is due to COVID-19, so that they can verify vaccination/negative COVID test status. No hours were posted when I wrote this, but I'm pretty sure they're going to make provisions for the extra time the COVID processing will take. With any luck, they will open Will Call pickup on Tuesday. Hear that, TCM?


You should be able to get a guide book at the Information Desk (ground floor) in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Information Desk hours from 2019 were: Thursday, 10 am-8 pm; Friday/Saturday, 8 am-8 pm; and Sunday, 8 am-6 pm. Presumably, they will be comparable this year. If you lose or forget your guide book at the hotel, the Information Desk should be able to get you a new one.


By now, you probably have already made arrangements for travel, so it's probably too late to change it, but for future reference, I would recommend coming in on Wednesday (or earlier) before the festival and leaving Monday (or later). There are lot of people who build vacations around TCMFF. You will make friends, and the extra time will allow you to hang out with your old movie cronies. 

Earlier I said, read everything you can thing. Well, I know how you can get busy and time can get away from you, especially when preparing for a trip/vacation. Most people are going to have a good 5 or 6 hours travel time getting to TCMFF. Make some printouts or save copies to your tablet or whatever to read in the airport and on the plane.

Are you the type who likes to buy souvenirs? If so, are they going to fit in your suitcase? You might want to consider bringing a Priority Mail Flat-Rate box. If you’re worried about items getting lost or damaged in the mail, you can always mail home your dirty clothes. Post Offices:
  • 1615 Wilcox Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (hours, 9 am to 6 pm, Mon to Fri; 9 am to  3 pm, Sat; closed Sun), about 6 blocks east of Highland and half a block south of Hollywood Blvd. 
  • 1425 N Cherokee Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 (hours, 9 am to 5 pm, Mon to Fri; 9:30 am to  3:30 pm, Sat; closed Sun), about three blocks east of Highland Ave. and a block south of Sunset.
Other shipping options: 
  • Mail and More on Hollywood, 7095 Hollywood Blvd. (hours, 10 am to 5 pm, Mon to Fri; 10 am to  3 pm, Sat; closed Sun), much closer, about two blocks west of the Roosevelt. It is a private shipping place, so you may pay more. Then again, it's much closer to the Festival than either of the Post Offices.
  • FedEx Office Print & Ship Center, 1755 N Highland Ave, Hollywood, CA 90028 (hours, 9 am to 5 pm, Mon to Fri; closed Sat/Sun), about a block north of Hollywood and Highland. You'll probably pass it multiple times on the way to and from the Legion Theater during the Festival.
It might even be worth calling your hotel and see if they can mail for you.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Me, I only do Facebook and Twitter, so I can only speak to those with any authority. On Facebook, I suggest joining the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! group. It's a great place to meet people, make plans, and ask questions (link below). TCM has a very active presence on Twitter. Even if you have never been on Twitter, it might be worth the trouble of creating an account just for TCMFF. Make sure that you follow @tcm and monitor the #TCMFF hashtag. The immediacy of Twitter make it a good platform for interacting with others in close to real-time. I'm sure if you are on Instagram, Tumblr, or social media, you can find similar by searching for TCMFF. If you do meet people on social media who click with and think it might be fun to have lunch or something, make plans early. People's schedules fill up quick. Hmm, note to self: There probably needs to be a TCMFFr app, so you can swipe right for film festival hookups. Look into this for 2023. 

Choose You Own Path

Different people enjoy TCMFF in different ways. Some people like to discovery new films or see special presentations that you can only find see at the Festival. Some people want to see every as many Film Noir or Pre-Code screenings as possible. Others want to relish in old favorites they have seen a hundred times before. In the past, I have attended with my daughter, and I tended to pick films that I know she would like or should see. She's working full-time and won't be attending this year. She's all grown up. I'm verklempt. I'll be adjusting things a bit this year. At least, I think so. You may run into others who have a different approach to TCMFF than you. Don't feel bad or think you need to reevaluate. There is no one right approach except for the one that works for you. 

Be Flexible

To anyone who prefers Gentlemen, you're welcome.

Despite all of your planning, leave yourself a little wiggle room. Each year, they leave four or five TBA slots open on Sunday to repeat films that turned people away earlier in the Festival. The TBAs will be announced fairly late on Saturday. This could be your chance to see something that you had to skip or got locked out on earlier. On the TBAs, bear in mind that certain things probably will not be repeated. A silent film with a live orchestra may not be repeated just because the musicians would have to be available on short notice. Also, I don't see them repeating a film that overflowed the 900-seat Chinese IMAX. Showing it again in a 200-seat theater probably wouldn't make enough difference to be worth the trouble.

in 2018, we were about 20 people back from getting into a rare screwball comedy, but it didn't look like we going to make it into the theater. The TCM Festival staff announced that another screening of a French-language film noir still had plenty of seats. We switched gears and that turned out to be one of our favorite films that year. It’s perfectly okay to switch things around. You might be late getting to a screening and get shut out. Check the schedule, you might be able to get into something else. Maybe, you figured that you’d be too tired for any of the midnight movies, but you get out of that last screening and feel really pumped and want to keep going. Go for it.

Maybe, there is a block that you’re not particular enthused about. This is the perfect chance to get a real meal or even sneak back to the hotel for a nap. One year, my daughter and I watched a movie we were both psyched on, but ended up hating it. Neither of us, had to energy to watch another film afterwards. I dropped my daughter off at our AirBnB, and went back to the Roosevelt for a drink. I ended up hanging out with a friend Ruth at the Roosevelt bar at just the right time to meet and take a picture with Dennis Miller. Just remember, you’re there to have fun. It’s almost assured that you’re going to be running around a lot, but there is nothing that says you have to. It’s okay to take a breather.

Dennis Miller, Ruth Mundsack, and me

Try Something New

To a certain degree, this is going to vary from person to person to person. Maybe, you've never been to one of the midnight or poolside screenings, try to find a way to make that happen. Maybe, you've never seen a silent film with live accompaniment. Maybe, you're the type of person who puts a premium on seeing films you've never seen before over old standards that you've seen a bunch of times. Know that seeing something like Casablanca in the TCL Chinese IMAX in a packed theater with an audience who knows the film by heart like you do is a way better experience than seeing it on the big screen at the multiplex with Fathom Events with 30 people.

My second year at TCMFF, they did a special presentation on the history of Technicolor. I thought it sounded really cool, but I decided on something else instead. Afterwards, everybody was raving about how cool the Technicolor thing was. The next year I decided to not make the same mistake twice and went to the Vitaphone presentation. Vitaphone was the first technology to make talking motion pictures viable on a large scale, and the presentation was awesome.

Just try to step outside of your comfort zone at some point during the Festival. Maybe, it works out. Maybe, it doesn't doesn't work out so well. Just know that it's actually kind of hard to make a bad decision at TCMFF.

Try to See Something Besides Inside of a Theater

Even if you only have a couple of hours to spare, take advantage. Maybe you can squeeze in one of the tours. If you keep going east on Hollywood Blvd, things start to get less cheesy and you'll find cool things like vintage clothing stores. Also it seems like more of the sidewalk stars that direction are Golden Age Hollywood people. Me, I want to try to have a meal at Musso and Frank's again and maybe a trip to Amoeba Records. (6400 Sunset Blvd). Occupying an entire block, Amoeba Records is arguably one of the best record stores in the country. They also have a great selection of DVDs upstairs, organized into categories that TCMFF people will appreciate, such as Film Noir and Pre-Code. I just found out Amoeba Records has moved to a smaller location at 6200 Hollywood Blvd . Reviews on it are mixed, good reviews from people who had never been to the old location, poor reviews from people who had. I have a feeling it's a shadow of its former self. It is close to a Trader Joe's (1600 Vine St) and a minor classic film landmark (Chateau Alto Nido Apartments, 1851 Ivar Ave, William Holden's apartment in Sunset Blvd). All very close to Hollywood Vine Metro station if you want to save the 1 mile walk. [Thanks again, Danny]

About 4 blocks east of Highland on Hollywood Blvd. is Larry Edmunds Bookstore, great bookstore, specializing in movies and theater.

If there is somewhere you want to go, it might be worth it to call and see that they are still there, or that their hours haven't changed, especially post-COVID.  A couple of years ago, I did a series of posts on my favorite TCMFF Sidetrips. See links at the bottom of this post.

Talk to People

You probably wouldn’t know but I’m kind of an introvert. Oh, I’m fine talking to people if I feel have a reason to or if I think I have something in common with them, but in some social situations, I clam up or spend the whole time talking to the people I already know. Know that pretty much anybody wearing a TCMFF badge is someone you have something in common with, probably way more than most of your friends back home. This is your tribe. Revel in it. By Saturday, almost anyone you talk to has seen at least one of the same movies you have over the Festival. At any given time, there are about five things going on at once. If you’re standing in line, everyone else in that line has just passed up four other things that under normal circumstances they would love to see. If that’s not something in common, I don’t know what is. If you’re shy, try the following conversation starters:
  • What have you seen so far? A lot of the time it’s things you saw too or something you really wanted to see, but had to skip for something you wanted to see more. If it’s one of those rare titles, you can find out whether it was worth it. This may help you decide on those TBAs on Sunday.
  • What’s your favorite thing so far? You might get some great stories: Eddie Muller was very funny. Or I was standing in line for coffee with Ben Mankiewicz. 
  • And don’t forget the standard ones: Where are you from? How was your trip?

Festival Boutique

No word at this at this time. I would imagine that there would be a place to buy Festival t-shirts etc. In years past, they have taken over part of a shop in the mall. I'm guessing they will do similar this year, but if the mall is under construction, they may be waiting to finalize the location. Then, again, post-COVID maybe prices have gone up to the point where it wouldn't be worth doing. 


I like to think of TCMFF as Comic-Con for classic film fans. At Comic-Con, you can't walk 20 feet without having someone give you swag. For those not in the know, swag is cool free stuff, or sometimes just free stuff. There is not a lot of swag at TCMFF, but it does exist. TCM does hold events for things like the TCM Wine Club. Will there be swag there? I honestly don't know, but there might be. Of course, maybe you'll have to join Club to get it, but if you were planning to anyway, it might be cooler than what you would get otherwise.

Most years, Beth Accomando and Miquel Rodriguez of Film Geeks San Diego, do some sort of swag and/or cookies for the midnight movies, but you have to go to the midnight movies to get them. 

Roughly 98% of the swag at TCMFF is buttons. Before TCMFF in 2019 , I made rather flippant remark on Facebook about buttons. I said, if you didn't get any buttons, it's because you didn't try. Of course, several people responded, I didn't get any buttons. How do you get buttons? Well, here you go.

A lot of people make buttons to give out at TCMFF. Maybe they are promoting their classic film blog or podcast. Maybe they're doing it because they like Eleanor Parker or secretly wish they had Warren William was their sugar daddy. Anyway, if you want buttons, find someone who has some buttons and ask where they got them. Maybe they ordered them online before the Festival (graphic designer Kate Gabrielle has been doing TCMFF button sets for years; you can order them here). Maybe they got them the year before. Maybe the got them the day before from a guy wearing a Buster Keaton hat. Then again, maybe they got one from the woman over there in the green dress, and she still has some. You go up and ask her, and she gives you one.

You may need to ask five people, ten people, twenty people, thirty people. Maybe you will get some buttons. Maybe, you won't, but what if you don't. Is it bad that you talk to 20 or 30 people you wouldn't have talked to otherwise? If you see someone with a lot of buttons, ask them. Often the reason people have a lot of buttons is that they are giving them out and got them in return. They probably have some on them and would be happy to give you one.

Another way to get buttons is look on social media. A lot of the people who order buttons to give out at the Festival will post pictures of them on Twitter, Facebook, or whatever ahead of time. "Hi everybody, my Cary Grant buttons came in today." When you see things like this, like them. Post comments about how cool they. Follow or friend them. Send them a direct message. When it gets closer to the Festival, figure out which events they are going to and find them and ask for a button. See what I did there? I just recommended that you cyberstalk someone to get Cary Grant button. Don't worry. In the realm of cyberstalking, this is about as benign as it gets.

Finally, if you really want buttons, go out and get some. Find an image you like, ignore the fact that you don't own the copyright. Yes, I know this is wrong, and illegal, but you're probably not going to get caught, though to be safe, I might steer clear of Disney. Then order some buttons. If you're not real tech savvy, find someone to help you. You probably know have a nephew who can help. If that is too much trouble, just do one with text. Most button making sites will allow you to type in the text, you want to put on the button. Say you like, Chico Marx, do buttons that say, "There ain't no Sanity Clause"

The reason everyone does buttons is that they're cheap and easy to do. The first place I looked at just now was charging $42 for 100 buttons. You can probably do better if you look around. That's about a 40 cents a piece. If you get a button-making kit, you can probably do them even cheaper, especially if you print the images at work. If you give out a hundred buttons, you're probably going to get some in return. Are you going to get 75? Maybe not. You might only get five, but likely you'll get quite a few. You're definitely going to get one, because you're going to keep one for yourself. And it's going to be one you like, because you picked out what to put on it. You got a button that you love, and it only cost you a 40 cents. Score.

Nowhere is the old adage it's better to give than receive more true than with buttons and TCMFF. The point is not getting buttons. The point is giving them. Where else can you make people happy for 40 cents. If you give a homeless guy 40 cents, he's going to look at you like you just took a dump in his sleeping bagIf you like buttons, order some. You'll get one, and you'll make 99 other people happy. It's the best  40 bucks you'll ever spend in your life. By the way, if you do make some buttons, it's probably better not to put the TCM logo on it. TCM is in the business selling stuff with their logo on it. They probably wouldn't confiscate them or anything, but it is their pool we're playing in. We should respect that.

If you decide to do swag, now, would be the time to figure it out. You need to allow time to get them ordered and delivered. You wouldn't have them arrive the day after you leave for Hollywood. I am doing swag this year, but it won't be buttons. No, I'm not telling. I just like going a different direction. 

In 2019, I did temporary tattoos. I gave one to an older woman that I'd interacted with on Facebook. She said, "I have a tattoo." She then showed me this very fine black line in the crook of her hand between her thumb and forefinger. She said that she did it herself with a needle and india ink. "When I was a kid, all of the good-looking bad boys in the neighborhood had these crucifix tattoos on their hands there," she explained. She and a girlfriend tried to give themselves tattoos to impress them, but it hurt too much so she only got the one line done.  When I sent her a message on Facebook to ask if I could share this story, she said I could and that the the bad boys were called Pachucos, a name for Mexican-American gang members in the 1950s. That's one of the most hardcore things I've heard in my life. This woman who looks like the perfect grandmother was giving herself a home-made tattoo to impress the bad boys in the neighborhood in the 1950s. I wonder if her kids/grandkids know.

Several years ago, I did these. I got a really great smirk from Ben Mankiewicz when I handed him one.

If they ever show A Place in the Sun, I'll do them again. 

Swag You Really Don't Want

One last word of warning. As you wander Hollywood Blvd, people are going to try give you stuff. Don't take it. Once a young man came up to me and said, "Here, have a free CD." In a moment weakness and exhaustion, I accepted. He then proceeded to ask me for money for the free CD he had just given me. And then didn't want to take it back when I said no. Trust me, you don't need that kind of headache.

Shameless Plug

I broke down and order some enamel pins. They should arrive in the next two weeks. I am going to be selling them online as soon as they come in and in-person at TCMFF. 

It dawned on me after I'd ordered them that maybe I didn't think this through very well. It's probably not the best idea to be selling something in little ziplok bags on Hollywood Blvd, but my darling wife assured me that I was white and could probably get away with it. 


Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. Don't forget to check the links below. Good info there as well. I will update these links as I see more.

Related links

All of these links are from last year or older, but the info should still be good. If I see any updates or good new related posts, I'll do my best to update here. If you know of a good one, leave me a comment, and I will update.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

TCMFF Survival Guide Part 1 – How TCMFF Works

This will be my seventh year attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), held April 21 to 24, 2022. 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 sixth version of this guide I've done. I've tried to refine things over the years and have decided to split this post up into three parts:

  • Part 1 (this part) covers the nuts and bolts of how TCMFF works. 
  • Part 2 covers 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 covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF

What This Guide Will Not Cover

COVID-19 Restrictions, Processes, Mask Guidelines, etc. will not be addressed in this guide. At the time of this writing, the information on the TCMFF website was sparse and contained almost no specifics. However, the site says that TCM will continue to "monitor best practices and adhere to any required safety measures" and "will release a more detailed plan closer to the Festival." I am not going to attempt summarize or clarify this plan. When the plan is posted, I encourage everyone to read it closely and take appropriate steps accordingly. If they say that you need a certain type of mask that fits your face in a certain way, don't show up with a bandana like you're robbing the stage in a John Ford movie. In January 2022, I did a post on what the COVID guidelines might look like based on those at Comic-Con Special Edition in San Diego in November 2021 and what movie theaters in Los Angeles/Hollywood were doing in January 2022. That post can be found here. Bear in mind that this information is speculative and may ultimately be wildly inaccurate when we are closer to April. Look for the TCMFF COVID-19 plan when it releases. Read it, and follow it.


Most of the following 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. 

Date announcement

Most years, the dates of the next year festival are announced in the Summer. This year, they were a little behind, presumably due to COVID, and announced the dates in early October. The only reason I mention this is that really want to get a room at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, it's a good idea to act fast. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is a very expensive hotel and has only a relatively small number of somewhat reasonably priced but still expensive rooms, you need to book almost immediately after the dates are announced. To give you an idea of what I mean, in 2015, I called the Roosevelt at about 4:30 Pacific time the day TCM announced the dates, and by that time, the cheapest available was a mini-suite at $700 plus a night, in 2015 prices no less. 


Festival passes/badges for the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival will be exclusively available for Will Call pick up beginning Wednesday, April 20th. No passes will be mailed for the 2022 TCMFF. While this may be an inconvenience, presumably it is necessary so that TCM can perform any needed COVID verifications.

Badges, we don't need not stinking badges.... Well, yes, you do.

Passes usually go on sale in late November. At the time of this writing, Spotlight and Essential pass levels are sold out, and Classic and Palace passes are still available. Currently, there is a waitlist for Spotlight and Essential passes. See the TCMFF web site for details. This year, TCM did early bird discount pricing for the first two or three weeks. I'm pretty sure the early bird prices were the same as for the [cancelled] 2020 TCMFF, and then in early December, Pass prices went up to the values you see below. From top to bottom, the pass levels break down as follows:

Spotlight Pass ($2549) – 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:

  • Entry to the Opening Night Gala Party following the official Opening Night Red Carpet Gala screening
  • Meet-and-greet events
  • Priority entry to screenings (separate line that goes in first, does not guarantee you a seat if the theater is full)
  • Limited edition TCM Classic Film Festival poster
Essential Pass ($1099) – 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 ($849) – 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 in the early evening on Thursday at Club TCM in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
  • Closing Night party on Sunday at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Palace Pass ($399). Access to film screenings at all Festival venues, excluding the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres Multiplex and Club TCM (Note: This pass does not grant entry to the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres Multiplex, Club TCM events or official parties and receptions at any time).

Additionally, this Palace pass does not grant access to any Festival venue or event prior to Friday, April 22.

Individual Tickets. After all passholders have been seated, any open seats will be sold on a first come, first served, standby basis. Individual tickets are $20 for most screenings and events. Students with valid student ID will receive a 50% discount off all individual tickets. I seem to remember that they only took cash, but I can't say that for sure. I do remember seeing a tweet saying that sometimes individual ticket holders got in late and often missed the film introductions. Your mileage may vary. See the TCMFF web site lists more details on Individual Tickets.

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

Not Those ...


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 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, 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 don't 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.


Chinese IMAX ceiling fresco

The important thing to keep in mind about the venues is where they are and how big they are.  The schedule for TCMFF can be very tight. You generally want to get in line by about a half hour before a screening. Obviously, if you have to hoof it out to the Legion Theater, you need to allow time for that. Generally speaking, one of the theaters in the TCL Chinese 6 is relatively small. You probably need to get there even earlier for those, because they are the most likely to have to turn people away. 

I’ve arranged the venues 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 break the line and start up again up the stairs up into the Ovation Hollywood mall (formerly Hollywood and Highland mall). Don’t panic if the line goes back a long way. It’s a huge 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 – Located inside the Ovation Hollywood mall. Currently, the TCMFF site only says that three screens are being used, but not the size of the theaters. I will try to update the theater sizes sizes when they are announced.
  • Legion Theater at Post 43 (484 Seats) – Located at 2035 N. Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068. This is a newly refurbished historical theater in the American Legion Post 43. Very cool venue.  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, not being used this year, bummer) Google Maps calls it a 12 minute walk. The TCMFF web site calls it a 15 to 20 minute walk. It is possible to cut through Ovation Hollywood mall, and you might shave time off that, hard to say. If you were coming from the TCL Chinese 6, it definitely would be faster to go out the back of the mall. There is a way to exit the mall to the north that puts you out on Highland Ave. near the Loew's Hotel. Also by going through the mall 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. At this point, it's hard to say if that will happen this year. I'm guessing it will not. The Egyptian Theatre is undergoing renovations and is scheduled to re-open in 2022, but likely will not be open in time for TCMFF. The Cinerama Dome is currently listed online as permanently closed. However, there was an article posted in mid-December by the Hollywood Reporter saying that the company that owns the theater has applied for a liquor license and plans to re-open in 2022. Again, likely, this may happen too late for TCMFF. That said, it is possible the people at TCM will pull a rabbit out of their fedora and announce something about additional venues in the coming weeks. I'm not holding my breath, but it would be nice.
A word of warning about the Ovation Hollywood mall. It was designed to be explored. There are multiple levels, and it's not always easy to know what level you are on and how to get up or down, and more importantly where you are in relationship to the TCL Chinese 6 and/or the Chinese IMAX/Roosevelt. There are a few tricks to getting around which I will cover in Part 3 of this post. The abridged version is that if you have any time before TCMFF starts, go to the Ovation Hollywood mall and at the very least figure out where the TCL Chinese 6 is. It is very easy to get lost, and the time you get lost is bound to be the time you only have a very short window to get to the next screening.


The full schedule is posted about three weeks out. For the most part, films are scheduled in blocks, with all five theater venues running films at the same time, not counting Club TCM events, poolside screenings, handprint ceremonies, etc. For example, on Friday and Saturday, there is usually a morning block, a mid-day block, an afternoon block, an early evening block, a late evening block, and one midnight movie each, on Friday and Saturday nights only.

There's roughly an hour between blocks, and you would think that leaves you plenty of time to get from one screening to the next, but it doesn't always work out that way. Let's say, one person goes to a screening of a 90-minute movie that starts at 9 am, and another person goes to 2-hour movie that also starts at 9 am. The 90-minute movie person has an extra half hour between blocks and probably won't have much trouble getting to a second screening at 12, whereas the 2-hour movie person might be scrambling
. All films have someone introducing them. Sometimes, it's a simple 5-minute intro like we're used to seeing on the network. Other times, it may be a 20 minute presentation or interview with one the film's stars or director. You really need to pay close attention to start and end times.

Epics, like Gone with the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia will take up two blocks. Sometimes blocks will pair a longer movie, say a 2 1/2-hour movie opposite a pair of short movies, like a 70-minute Pre-Code and an 80-minute film noir.  It can get pretty complicated, and that time window between blocks of movies do not always align perfectly well.

The TCMFF program is broken into a number of categories:
  • Essentials – Classics that pretty much every one knows, Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, Double Indemnity
  • Discoveries – Lesser known classic and sometimes foreign films, Merrily We Go to Hell, When Worlds Collide, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
  • Special Presentations – Films with more in-depth discussions/celebrity interviews, collections of short films, silent films with live accompaniment, and so on
  • Tributes – Films that also feature appearance by/interviews with high profile guests
  • A number of themes, in 2019, the themes included the following:
    • Bromance
    • Magnificent Obsessions
    • A Celebration of 20th Century Fox
    • Nitrate – Presumably, no Nitrate this year (I think the Egyptian is the only theater in the area with the equipment required to safety screen Nitrate prints)
  • Club TCM Events – Panel discussions, Hollywood Home Movies, etc.
Finally, on Sunday, there are four or five To Be Announced (TBA) screenings. These are repeat screenings of particularly popular films that had to turn people away, so if you do get locked out on something, there's still a chance you can see it on Sunday. The TBA films are announced by early evening on Saturday. A list will be posted at the Info Desk at the Roosevelt, on the App, Twitter, etc., and the film intros late Saturday will usually announce them as they become available.

So I know what you're thinking. How do you choose and when do you eat? Both are good questions. The answers are a bit complicated, but I'll do my best to answer in subsequent parts of this Guide.