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 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 (this part) covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF
What This Guide Will Not Cover
There are a ton of restaurants in the immediate area, both fast food and regular sit-down restaurants, but bear in mind that the transition times between screenings can be relatively short, so don’t count on being able to get a regular meal. If you’re a coffee drinker like me, you might want to pick up something like a sandwich or a bagel and a piece of fruit with your latte in the morning. You can put in your bag and eat on the go later.
If you have special dietary needs, and you need a real grocery store, Your best bets are the following:
- Ralphs (7257 Sunset Blvd). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 5 am to 1 am, seven days a week. About 8 blocks away, but not in the direction of any of the other TCMFF venues, dammit.
- Ralphs (1233 N La Brea Ave). Full service grocery store, should have a deli and salad bar and open 5 am to 1 am, days a week. Again about 8 blocks away, but on the map it looks marginally further than the Ralphs on Sunset. Also, it too is not in the general direction of any of the other TCMFF venues. Possibly, this might be worth the extra walk as it takes you past Jim Henson Co. (historic former home of Charlie Chaplin Studios). See photo below.
- Trader Joe's (1600 Vine St). About 12 blocks away and open 8 am to 9 pm, seven days a week.
(don't spit) at 1416 La Brea Ave (east side of street)
- Breakfast, the most important meal of the day. Yeah, I know I sound like your mother, but if you skip breakfast, you’re already off to a bad start. Me, I’ve never been real big on the breakfast bars, but if you like them, and they work for you, pick up a box and take with you. Bring a couple extra. You might find yourself in line with someone who’s totally famished. A 75-cent breakfast bar could earn you a friend for life.
- If you get to a screening too late and get shut out or have a block where you're not psyched on anything, take advantage of it. Go get a real meal, where it’s hot and they bring it to you on a real plate. It might be the only one you get over the four days. Actually, in 2019, my wife, daughter, and I ended up taking a break most days (skipping one block) and getting one good meal at the expense of a screening. It was kinda worth it.
- Hungry late? A good bet is In-N-Out Burger, a Southern California burger chain. They are located at 7009 Sunset Blvd., corner of Sunset and North Orange Dr., three blocks south of the Hollywood Roosevelt. They have a really simple menu, but have a secret menu that is probably the worst kept secret ever. My favorite is protein style burger, no bun wrapped in big leaves of lettuce so you can eat like a normal burger, great if you’re doing the low-carb thing. They are open until 10:30 am to 1 am, Sunday to Thursday and to 1:30 am, Friday and Saturday.
- Water – You should try to do some of that too. Actually, post-COVID, drinking fountains may be closed. If you rely on them, you might want to adjust accordingly.
I'm sure if you asked, the good folks at TCM would say don't bring your own alcohol to TCMFF, but they do usually have a flask for sale in the TCM Boutique shop, so I'm going to call that mixed signals and act accordingly. Just don't abuse it.
FYI, drinks in the Hollywood Roosevelt are crazy expensive (figure on $20 a drink for cocktails; you should get enough change to cover the tip). There are several bars in the Hollywood Roosevelt. It seemed to me the drinks were better in the Writer's Room (formerly the Library Bar) and the Spare Room on the mezzanine, than in the lobby and pool bars. You might need reservations in the Spare Room and possibly the Writer's Room. If you going to pay a fortune for a drink, you might as well get one made with fresh ingredients by a mixologists who know what they're doing.
In the past, they have had complementary beer and wine in Club TCM in the evenings. Not sure about this year. If it happens, score. Of course, the problem for me is that Club TCM closes at midnight, and most of the time I don't make it back from the last screening before it closes.
- Extreme heat – While not common in April, temperatures in the 90s do happen in the Spring, and bear in mind that you might be standing in line in the sun during the hottest part of the day. I honestly don’t remember standing in the sun very often over the years. I do know that at the Chinese IMAX, the line might run out of the mall and into an area with no shade, and if memory serves me, they run the lines at the Legion Theater in the parking lot, so similar there. Even if we get mild weather, sunscreen is highly recommended and maybe even a hat or possibly an umbrella. If you don’t have room to pack a hat, consider buying a cheap one when you get here and just toss it at the end of the trip.
- Rain – The song says, it never rains in Southern California, but people always forget that the end of the verse is, it pours, man, it pours. Very very true, both literally and figuratively. Hollywood doesn’t get a lot of rain, but there are times, when it comes down in buckets. Because we don’t get a lot of rain out here, we tend to hopelessly ill-prepared for it. Streets flood. Hotel lobbies flood. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it could. That’s where your forecast will help. If you’re coming from a different part of the country, you’re probably already way better prepared than we are here. Even if the forecast doesn’t call for rain, if you have an umbrella that packs easy, bring it. You're not going to be able find one easy walking distance from the Festival, especially if it's raining.
- Wind – I wouldn't have thought this would be an issue, but in 2019, the wind on the Monday before TCMFF was a strong as I've seen in Southern California. It was blowing branches off of palm trees onto Hollywood Blvd. It wouldn't have surprised me if a twister showed up and carried the Legion Theater off to Oz.
For the rest of the Festival, some people dress up and some people dress down. Me, I do a little of both, shorts and a t-shirt during the day and something dressy at night. I even managed to procure a white dinner jacket a couple of years ago. God, I hope it still fits. I plan to wear it Thursday night, even though I'm not going to the Red Carpet. You don't see a lot of cosplay at TCMFF, but if you want to dress as Dorothy to The Wizard of Oz, or wear jammies to The Pajama Game, go for it. People would dig it. A woman wore a very good version of Scarlet O'Hara's curtain dress to the closing night party in 2019 it was awesome.
All things considered, with the exception of the Legion Theater, most everything is pretty centrally located, but you will do a fair amount of walking and standing. You may feel like you’re bouncing back and forth like a pinball at some point. If you have new shoes that kind of hurt your feet, and you think it will get better, it won’t. If you're dead set on wearing them, at least consider changing into them late in the day. Remember what happened to Moira Shearer when she put on The Red Shoes. I'm not saying the wrong shoes are going to make you jump off a balcony in front of a train, but they might make you feel like you want to.
If you have one pair of shoes that are really really comfortable, bring ‘em, even if they make you look like Edna May Oliver. The AC in the theaters can be pretty aggressive at times. If you get cold easily, a sweater that carries easy or even a roll-up fleece blanket that will fit into your bag is a good idea. Though this has nothing to do with clothes, the seats in theaters may not always be the greatest, so bringing a cushion might not be a bad idea either.
Think about what devices you need. Did you promise your boss that you’d check e-mail? Really? Bad idea. Tell your boss to go lay an egg. Or not. Are you planning to blog during the Festival? Can you get by doing that on your phone or do you need a tablet or laptop? You're not going to have as much time as you think you will.
If you’re counting on the hotel having Wi-Fi, it might be worth finding out whether that’s in your room (and what they charge) or only in the lobby. Hotels have had a tough time with COVID, so they may be looking to make a little more than they might be otherwise. Look at your broadband usage and if you think it might be an issue, possibly see if you can get more from your provider for just the trip. We tend to burn through all of our data at TCMFF. That in itself was not a huge deal, but I find the constant barrage of text messages from Verizon telling me about it annoying.
You’ll definitely want to have a camera. Smartphone cameras are pretty good these days. If the camera on yours is not, and you're due for an upgrade, now might be a good time. Keep in mind that many smartphones still do not do real well at a distance and/or in low light. Obviously, you’re not going to be taking pictures in a darkened theater, but you might want to get a shot of whoever is introducing the film and movie theater house lights tend to be less than optimum for photography. It might be kind of a trade off, sitting in the first couple of rows might be good for getting pictures of whoever is introducing the film, but be bad for watching the film.
Make sure you take the time to free up space on your device's storage or look into cloud storage if you haven't already. The last thing you want is to find yourself standing next to Ben Mankiewicz and realize you have to figure out which pictures from your cousin’s wedding you can live without. The mistake I made one year was to wait until late the night before we left to empty out my phone. I start moving the files and saw, About 45 minutes remaining.... Aw man, I need to go to bed.
Obviously, all these gadgets will need to be charged, so don’t forget to pack the appropriate chargers. You might be able to find a charger for your current iPhone or Android device, but Apple in particular is bad about changing the cables with every new device, so finding a charger for your 3-year old iPhone could be a problem.
Avoid Changing Routine
A friend told me that she normally drinks tea for caffeine, but didn't want to have to use the restroom all the time at TCMFF. Turns out Jelly Belly makes Extreme Sports Beans, caffeinated jelly beans. Brilliant. You can order them on Amazon, might be hit or miss at brick and mortar stores. Probably stores that sell nutritional supplements are your best bet.
Con CrudPeople who go to a lot of conventions can attest that they can be a great place to get sick. You travel across the country, don't get much sleep, don't eat right, and spend lots of time in close quarters with hundreds if not thousands of strangers. It's like living in a Petri dish for several days. It's one thing if you get sick after you get home, but getting sick in the middle of TCMFF would suck, and not in a good way. I like to take Airborne, Emergen C, or something similar the morning I leave and each day while I’m there. Does it guarantee that you won’t get sick? No, but it doesn’t hurt. Likely, the masking requirements they are currently planning will be a help here. I went to Comic-Con Special Edition in November, and everyone was required to wear masks at all times when not actively eating or drinking indoors. I don't know a single person who got Con Crud this time. Yea, COVID?
Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful.