Hello! If you are reading this post you are either planning to attend the TCM Film Festival or are thinking of attending. My goal with this post is to help you get the most out of your experience with the festival and your time in LA. If you are on the fence about attending the festival I also hope that this post can help you decide if it is for you or not. As of now, I do not consider myself an expert on the festival but I am working hard to be a solid source of reliable information for you!
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The TCM Classic Film Festival
TCMFF, Turner Classic Movie Film Festiva is an annual event that gives movie fans the opportunity to watch classic movies on the big screen. A lot of the movies include a special introduction or a q&a with on-screen talent, behind-the-scenes crew members, or experts. Club TCM features conversations and panels that do not accompany a movie. This is the premiere event for fans of Old Hollywood. The festival kicks off on a Thursday evening and shows movies all day long for the following three days.
As long as I have known about the festival it takes place in April, though not always the same week. They do announce the dates of the next festival far enough out to allow for an appropriate amount of time for planning. The more planning you do in advance the more time you can spend actually enjoying the festival when the time comes.
Episode 33 of the LA Dreaming Podcast – Your Guide to the TCM Classic Film Festival
I was joined by my friend and classic film enthusiast Jack Fields who has attended the TCMFF every year since it began. We shared tips and information about the festival in our conversation. You can listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, or Podbean. You can follow our guest Jack on Instagram and Youtube.
TCM Classic Film Festival Passes and Tickets
Passes for the festival go on sale before the schedule of movies has been released. You can see the 2023 TCMFF schedule here.
Some of the passes do sell out but you can typically still get at least one tier of the passes when the schedule is released if you want to wait to see what movies are playing first. There are four different tiers of passes which will give you different access to the festival. If you want to attend without getting a pass I have information below about standby tickets which are $20 each. Depending on how many screenings you want to go to might help you decide if a pass or standby access is the best option for you.
What each of the 4 festival passes will get you:
- Access to the Opening Night Red Carpet Screening and Opening Night Gala Party
- Priority Entry to All Festival Screenings
- “Meet and greet” events with TCM Hosts and Special Guests
- Access to Club TCM Events
- A gift bag of festival collectibles
- Closing Night Event
- A gift bag of festival collectibles
- Access to the Opening Night Red Carpet Screening
- 4 day access Thursday through Sunday for film programs at all Festival Venues
- Access to an opening night and closing night event
- Access to Club TCM events
- 4 day access Thursday through Sunday for film programs at all Festival Venues (does not include access to the opening night red carpet screening)
- Access to Club TCM events
- A Welcome Reception Opening Night at the Roosevelt Hotel
- Access to the Closing Night Event
- Includes 3-day access to screenings Friday through Sunday excluding screenings at the Chinese Multiplex 6 and Club TCM
You can purchase festival passes directly from TCMFF here. Please note that having a festival pass does not guarantee entry to a screening. Depending on the venue there may be more pass holders in line than the number of seats that they can accommodate. Be sure to line up early for the screenings you are most interested in.
With a festival pass and with standby attendees you’ll be given a number while waiting in line, being given a number does not guarantee that you’ll get in but it holds your space in line.
I have not had the privilege of attending the festival with a pass so far. Waiting in the standby line can lead to you getting in but you will have the most success getting into screenings in the TCL Chinese IMAX Theatre and the Hollywood Legion. I arrived two hours before the screening of Star Wars in the big Imax theatre at the TCL Chinese. About an hour before the screening started they gave us all numbered tickets.
Once you had your standby ticket you could leave to get food or walk around. We were told to come back 30 minutes before the screening started. It is at the very last minute that you find out if you’ll get in or not. The original standby ticket only helps you keep a place in line but doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get in. Screenings with special guests are also likely to fill up as well. Standby tickets are $20 each unless you have a student ID in which case the tickets are $10. The only $30 standby ticket at the 2023 festival is the closing night screening of The Big Chill. It is cash only for standby tickets.
Standby tickets are not available for the Opening Night Red Carpet Screening, Poolside Screenings, or Club TCM events.
If you are interested in going to the festival I highly recommend joining the Going to the TCM Classic Film Festival Facebook group. This group is filled with helpful information about the festival.
*Keep in mind that some of these venues do not allow outside food if they see it. So please don’t try to enter right after you purchase a coffee.
There is a large Imax theatre which is the one with the hand and footprints out front. And there are also six smaller theatres as part of this venue. This is one of my favorite places in Hollywood to see a movie because of its history. For movies in the large theatre, there is a greater chance for people with standby tickets to get in.
The Chinese 6 Multiplex
This is still part of the TCL Chinese Theatre but the large IMAX theatre is separated from where the smaller 6 theatres are. You’ll need to go into Ovation Hollywood, the shopping center by the Dolby Theatre, to access these theatres.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Club TCM, in the Blossom Ballroom at the Roosevelt, is home to events and panels throughout the festival. This is also a great area to see costumes on display and sit and relax. If you have a Citi Card be sure to keep an eye out should they do the pre-opening night event at Club TCM. I have been blessed to go to a kickoff event sponsored by Citi Card three times and will be going to the 2023 festival too with Laura Dern. You can read about my experience with that event from previous festivals here. Tickets are normally available about 2-3 weeks before the festival through the Citi entertainment page.
The Roosevelt also hosts poolside screenings during the festival. It does get cold at night in Hollywood so be sure to wear layers and have a blanket for the outdoor screenings.
The Hollywood Legion Theatre
The Hollywood Legion is on Highland north of Hollywood Blvd where the Chinese Theatre is. This is a newer theatre venue for the festival and one that I have not had a chance to check out yet but I heard great things about it during the festival. I’ll update this as soon as I experience it.
This festival is pretty incredible for movie fans and truly gives you an experience that you won’t find at any other festival. I highly recommend checking this out if you can.
The TCM Boutique
You can shop for festival merchandise in the lobby of the Chinese 6 Multiplex.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or Burbank Airport are the best choices location-wise for the festival. If you are able to fly into Burbank I would recommend that over LAX. It is a much smaller airport and traffic from Burbank to Hollywood is not nearly as bad as what you’ll experience trying to get out of LAX.
I would not recommend renting a car unless you are not staying in Hollywood. Parking in Hollywood can be expensive so it could be worth it to be within walking distance from the festival or just a short rideshare away. At least for the days of the festival. However, a car rental would be a great way to see the rest of LA if you have a few extra days before or after the festival.
If you walk at a brisk pace you can get from the Chinese Theatre to the Legion Theatre in roughly 9 mins. It can take closer to 15 mins to get from the Legion Theatre to the Roosevelt Hotel. Just keep all of this in mind as you figure out how to get to and from your screenings.
If this is your first visit to Hollywood I do need to warn you that there are a lot of people who will bother you trying to give you “free” stuff on Hollywood Boulevard. Just keep walking and ignore them. If any performers ask if you want photos with them they will try and charge you. Again, just ignore them.
I am only recommending hotels that give you the potential to walk to the hotels from the theatres. This will make things very convenient but will also provide a chance for you to return to the hotel in between movies and go back to eat food in your room if you’d like.
The Hollywood Roosevelt
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This hotel is iconic in Hollywood. It was the home of the very first Academy Awards and was even home to Marilyn Monroe at one point in time. This is a central hub for the festival and within walking distance of all of the theatres. However, staying here can be expensive and since it is the hub and one of the venues for the festival it does book up incredibly fast. If you want to read my review of my experience staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt you can find that post here.
This hotel is located in the heart of the Hollywood and Highland Center and is even closer to all of the theatres than the Roosevelt. There is even a direct entrance to the hotel on the second level of the Hollywood and Highland Center meaning that you don’t have to get back on Hollywood Boulevard to return to the hotel after a screening at the Chinese Theatre. I’m in a Facebook group for TCM Festival-goers and this hotel is raved about!
Magic Castle Hotel
There is a really cool perk that comes with staying at this hotel. It gives you access to the exclusive Magic Castle which is one of the hardest places in LA to get into. The Magic Castle is an incredible place to see magic and enjoy a really special evening. I will never forget my time there. The hotel is located on Franklin behind the Chinese Theatre so it is still within a good walking distance of the theatres.
Holiday Inn Express
This hotel is a further walk than the others but will most likely be a more affordable option. I don’t have any experience myself with this hotel so I would encourage you to check Yelp reviews.
Depending on how back-to-back you want to attend screenings or events it doesn’t leave much of a chance to eat. I would recommend getting as many snacks as you can from Ralphs which isn’t too far from where the festival takes place. In N Out is a must-have in Los Angeles and you can find one on Sunset Boulevard just a short walk from the Roosevelt. The food is really tasty and at a good price but it is a popular location so it might not be eating in between movie quick but that will depend on how much time you have.
There is a new old Hollywood-themed Taco Bell that opened up on Hollywood Blvd east of Hollywood & Highland.
When you do have time for a meal some of the most popular Old Hollywood restaurants to eat at are Musso & Frank (you’ll need a reservation before the festival), Miceli’s, and the Smoke House in Burbank. The Smoke House is not as close to the festival as the other two so that one is not as easy to visit but is still a great place to visit.
What to Do Before the Festival
If you arrive in LA early there are so many wonderful things that you can do. I recommend doing a tour of a movie studio. The Warner Bros Tour and the Paramount Tour are both great choices for movie fans. The Griffith Observatory is a fun spot to visit too! The Formosa Cafe was popular in Old Hollywood. You can take a tour of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and see where some Hollywood legends are buried. The Hollywood Pantages is close by as well if you would like to see a traveling Broadway show.
Looking for other festivals? You can check out my Guide to the Best Film Festivals in Los Angeles.