This will be my eighth year attending the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), held April 13 to 16, 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 seventh 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.
Part 3 (this part) covers preserving your sanity in the craziness of TCMFF
What This Guide Will Not Cover
COVID-19 info will not be addressed in this guide. At the time of this writing, the information on the TCMFF website was as follows:
There are currently no plans to implement mandatory COVID-19 related health and safety protocols at the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival. However, the health and safety of Festival attendees remains our number one priority and the Festival will continue to monitor the pandemic situation. Attendees will be subject to all applicable federal, state, and local safety precautions in place at the time of the event. In addition, TCM may, at its sole discretion, implement additional mandatory safety precautions to be determined.
In other words, look for the TCMFF website in case it changes:
NOTE: I just thought of this. It probably wouldn't hurt to bring a mask and a COVID test with you, so if you feel sick, you can quickly figure out what's going on.
This section covers trying to get some sustenance during TCMFF. I know you’re going to be running around trying not to miss anything, but seriously, try to eat something besides movie theater popcorn and Red Vines over the four days.
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 have enough time to get a regular meal between screenings. 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.
I am very happy to say that there is a CVS Pharmacy, a Subway, and a Target very close to TCMFF, located a block west of the TCL Chinese IMAX/Hollywood Roosevelt on the north side of the Hollywood Blvd. The Target appears to be a full-size Target on two levels, and like most Targets these days, it has groceries. Obviously, not as good as a regular grocery store, but good enough for most things. Also, Target might come in handy if you need something like a USB charger or if your earbuds go belly up. Both Target and CVS open at 8 am. If you got there, right at 8 am and could manage to get in and out in 15 minutes, you could probably make it to almost any 9 am screening a half hour early. Sadly, the Subway doesn't open until 9 am, but there is a Subway smartphone app. You might be able to set up your order ahead of time and hit send right when a film ends and get down there and back in a very short window. For things like snacks, the CVS Pharmacy might be faster, though by Sunday, it usually looks a bit like Cindy Lou Who's house after the Grinch had visited, nothing but hooks and wires. To be honest, I'm half expecting the Target to look that way by Sunday as well. Hours of operation:
- Target, 8 am to 10 pm, 7 days
- CVS Pharmacy, 8 am to 10 pm, 7 days; pharmacy hours, 9 am to 8 pm, Mon–Fri and 10 am to 5 pm, Sat/Sun
- Subway, 9 am to 11 pm, Mon–Sat and 9 am to 10 Sunday
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, 7 days. 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, 7 days. 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 not in the direction of any other TCMFF venues) and open 8 am to 9 pm, 7 days, however, it is only about 2 blocks from the Hollywood Vine Metro station.
I toyed with the idea of doing a restaurant guide, but I've only eaten at a handful of them, since I'm only up there once a year. Still, there are a couple landmark restaurants that deserve mention:
- Musso and Frank Grill – Hollywood's oldest restaurant. Kind of pricey, but the food and service is excellent, and lunch prices are fairly reasonable.
- Micelli's (1646 N Las Palmas Ave) – Opened in 1949, moderately priced and very good Italian food.
If you only got one real meal the whole four days at TCMFF, you couldn't go wrong with Musso and Frank or Micelli's. The problem is it's very difficult to find time for a restaurant with the roughly one-hour time window between blocks of films. Still, there's nothing that says, that you have to go to a movie in every block. Actually, last year, my wife 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 kind of worth it. Also, sometimes a short 70-minute film or a presentation at Club TCM can give you enough time to get a real meal.
To be perfectly honest, there are a ton of restaurants in the area. If you do a Google Maps search on Restaurants near Hollywood and Highland, you'll see a lot of good options, most of which have 4 star or better user ratings. Last year, I took some time in the weeks leading to TCMFF, to digitally scout out the area, that way, I had an idea of where things were and what types of food were available. We did very well food-wise last year.
Other food tips:
Breakfast is 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 some with you. In fact, 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. Me, I need my coffee in the morning. Fortunately, most coffee places has something that passes for breakfast, so I usually get breakfast at the same time. Plus, if they have sandwiches, I might pick one up and put it in my bag for later.
Hungry late? A good bet is In-N-Out Burger, a Southern California burger chain, 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. I usually get a six pack of bottled water for the room and put one in my bag each the morning. Then at least, I get some water during the day.
We all like to think we can hold our liquor like Nick and Nora Charles, but realistically no one can. I know you’re on vacation and want to have a good time, but keep in mind, you’re probably going to want to be up early the next morning for whatever screening. If you do overdo, take some aspirin and force yourself to drink some water before you collapse in bed. It won’t prevent the inevitable hangover, but it might take the edge off a little bit.
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 and you won't be far off). 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.
There are other bars in the area. Unfortunately, I can't speak for many of them. I have been in Boardner's, and it was a cool kind of whole-in-the-wall place with reasonably priced drinks. Located at 1652 North Cherokee Ave just south of Hollywood Blvd, Boardner's has been open since 1942. Black Dahlia murder victim, Elizabeth Short, was rumored to have had her last drink there. Lawrence Tierney used to start fights in the joint, though to be fair he started fights in a lot of places. Patrons over the years have included Robert Mitchum, Tommy Dorsey, Errol Flynn, W.C. Fields, Lucille Ball, Charles Bukowski, and Donald Sutherland. According to the menu, you can get CBD shot with any drink for $5, gotta love California.
I can guarantee you that it will not snow. Beyond that, all bets are off. Personally, I like to check the 10-day forecast for Los Angeles about a week out. That should give you a ballpark idea of what to plan for. Then check the forecast again, a couple of days before you leave and make any necessary adjustments. I’ve lived in San Diego my whole life, and we have weather pretty comparable to LA/Hollywood. Generally speaking, weather in Southern California is pretty mild in the Spring. It might get a little chilly in the evenings, but most of the time a light jacket or sweater is good enough. Having said all of that, what you mostly need to worry about is one of the following rather obnoxious extremes:
- 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 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.
This section covers what to wear. By and large, Southern California is pretty casual. You often see people in nice restaurants looking like they just stepped off the beach. If you’re attending the opening night Red Carpet screening, a suit for men and cocktail dress for women is recommended, although a tux or formal gown wouldn’t be out of place either.
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, provided I can find the time to change. I even managed to procure a white dinner jacket several years ago. I'm dieting now and hoping I can get in it by the time TCMFF rolls around. If so, I plan to wear it Thursday night, even though I'm not going to the Red Carpet, or at the closing night party.
You don't see a lot of cosplay (people in costumes) at TCMFF, but it does happen. Last year, I saw a couple women in Georgia Peach baseball uniforms for a screening of A League of Their Own, and a fair number of people were doing 80s garb for the poolside screening of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. 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, wear them as much as possible before you leave to see if it does get better. If not, leave them at home. If you really feel like you have to wear them, at the very 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 the electronics you’re bringing. Are you going to be posting on Facebook to make the friends back home jealous? If so, how well does your battery do? If it barely makes it through the day sitting in your pocket, you might want to consider getting one of those portable batteries to recharge during the day. You can plug in at the start of a movie, and by the time it's done, you're up to something reasonable.
It might not be a bad idea to bring one anyway. Sometimes when you’re in a strange city, your phone will die just by virtue of having poor coverage and constantly trying to find a signal. It may even turn out that one of the theaters is a terrible dead zone. In years past, there were charging stations in the lobby of the TCL Chinese 6 and in Club TCM. I don't remember if they did that last year or not. Just know that the last thing you want is a dead phone. That's almost a guarantee that you'll run into Ben Mankiewicz when he's in a mood to pose with fans.
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. Unless you have a very old phone, smartphone cameras are going to be good enough for most people. 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.
If you're a camera-bug and can't imagine going on vacation without your camera, by all means, bring it. If you have a good point-and-shoot camera and you're on the fence about bringing it, go to a restaurant with poor lighting and see how well it does vs. your phone. Try out things like the zoom and take a picture of the bartender across the room. An optical zoom might make enough of a difference to be worth carrying a second device. If it's small, maybe bring it anyway and carry with you the first day. Make a point of taking pictures with both the camera and your phone. Then compare the results and see if a real camera is worth the trouble, though keep in mind that the screen on the back of the camera is probably not as high resolution as your phone. Zoom in on faces and see if you're getting better detail.
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 Alicia Malone 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.
Note on Selfies
Avoid Changing Routine
Think about how you live your life. If you absolutely can't by on less than 8 hours sleep, you probably shouldn't attempt watching both midnight movies and attending a screening in every block on the schedule. There just aren't that many hours in the day. If you are a big breakfast-is-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day person, don't skip breakfast during TCMFF.
Me, I normally drink coffee during the day into the late afternoon. Then at TCMFF, I would have a cup in the morning and not have time for any the rest of the day and wonder why I was falling asleep on the late screenings. Now I make sure to stay properly caffeinated. The key here is staying properly caffeinated. Going back to your hotel, wired on a double latte, and staring at the ceiling until four in the morning is not a lot better than falling asleep at 5 or 6:00 because you didn't have enough. You can probably increase your caffeine intake by a little bit, but don't overdo it.
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.
I ordered them in 2019, but I would be wary of ordering the cheapest priced ones. I decided to save a few bucks by going to one of the "other" sellers. They either weren't exactly fresh or had been stored improperly and when I opened the packages, they were more of a jelly slab than individual beans.
Last year, the cafeteria at work started selling these little tiny candy bars, 80 calories and the caffeine equivalent of half a cup of coffee. You can order them on their web site or Amazon. They do have a store locator on the web site, but at least here in San Diego, they seem to be only available on college campuses, and the cafeteria in my building (or possibly, their web page isn't being updated on this).
As a Fun-Size Candy Bar, 80 Calories, and
There may be certain things that you can't avoid. Say you normally go to bed at 9:00, and you know you're going to be staying up later. Try to compensate by forcing yourself to stay awake later in the week or so before the Festival. If you do need to make changes, try to not go overboard. It's really easy to swing too far the other direction.
COVID notwithstanding, people who go to a lot of events 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.
Last year, I ordered some enamel pins and I have them for sale on my Etsy shop and should have them on me during TCMFF. I'm only about 10 or 15 away from breaking even:
You can order them at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/1177079470/asta-dog-enamel-lapel-from-classic-film. Also, I should have them with me to sell 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.
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