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.


  1. Great info! Appreciate all the hard work!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you liked it. Sorry for the delay. I sometimes post things and forget to come back and look at it. Okay, I do that a lot.