(UPDATES in italics. Last update 10/3/14)
Turner Classic Movies turns “legal” next spring. But, in the wake of recent headlines regarding buy-outs, layoffs, and management changes at Turner Broadcasting, some fans feared the channel might not reach its 21st birthday in the form in which it exists today, and that the future of the annual TCM Classic Film Festival might be in doubt.
SPOILER ALERT: It’s not. At least for now.
Today, the network announced the dates for the 2015 edition of the TCMFF, the most anticipated weekend of the year for Old Movie Weirdos from around the world. From Thursday, March 26 through Sunday, March 29, thousands of fans – 26,000 attended last year – will gather in Hollywood’s historic venues for more than 100 screenings and special events spread across 80 sleepless hours. Passes go on sale in November.
The 2015 Festival’s theme is History According to Hollywood, promising to explore “how cinema has shaped how we view – and remember – history.” Selections are expected to focus on “works about the past that are a reflection of the period in which they were made,” and how Hollywood has reshaped facts to create tales that are “not always true to the historical record.” (Kind of an understatement, right?)
There’s no word yet on what films will be presented, but this year’s festival is unique in that it will take place two weeks earlier than last year – and more than a month earlier than the 2011 edition, which concluded on May 1.
For the sixth consecutive year, the historic Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd. will again serve as home base, with a packed schedule of daily happenings at the “Club TCM” event space in the Blossom Room, site of the first-ever Academy Awards in 1929. The Roosevelt’s lobby will also be home to a broadcast television studio, where attendees can watch on-air hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz interview celebrities, special guests, and fans. There’s also a pop-up boutique where you can score TCM gear, books, DVDs, and all manner of geeky classic film collectibles that will embarrass your significant other when guests come to visit. The Roosevelt also has two in-house restaurants (and multiple bars) that allow for fans to congregate and, if time allows, eat. (Man can not live for an entire weekend on popcorn alone, though I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it for five years now.)
Osborne and Mankiewicz will once again serve as emcees for the event, introducing screenings at the TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre –rechristened in 2014 as one of the largest IMAX venues in the world – and the Egyptian Theater, as well as the nearby TCL Chinese 6 Theaters multiplex and other locations (Disney’s El Capitan also served as a venue the last two years). The guest list has not yet been revealed, but it will include performers from the selected films, family members of classic stars, authors, film historians, and contemporary personalities who share a love for Hollywood history.
So the good news is, there will be a TCMFF next year. Phew!
Now for the bad news: after no price increase in 2014, TCM has increased the price of passes at all levels by $50 for the 2015 event, and discontinued the Matinee Pass, which had offered a lower-cost option for daytime screenings only.
UPDATE 10/3/2014 – TCM responded to my request for comment regarding the changes:
“We have adjusted our 2015 pass prices and level offerings slightly in order to continue to offer the high level of festival experience our fans have come to expect,” a TCM spokesperson told me. “Taking into account feedback from passholders and wanting to provide the best possible experience for all attendees, we have made some modifications to our pass levels.”
The following is a summary of available passes and features:
The top tier Spotlight Pass promises “priority entry to all events,” as well as admission to the Vanity Fair-sponsored opening night party and daily meet-and-greet breakfasts with Osborne, Mankiewicz, and guests and a gift bag for $1,649.
The Essential Pass grants full access to all TCMFF events (excluding the opening night VF party), as well as a gift bag, for $749. The Classic Pass gives you everything except the as-yet-unannounced opening night red-carpet screening (and the gift bag) for $599. And TCM has also brought back the Deal of the Century, the $299 Palace Pass (introduced in 2013) for access to all movies at Grauman’s and the Egyptian from Friday through Sunday (sorry, no Club TCM events). Considering that most high-profile screenings happen at these two venues, it’s a great option for anyone on a budget (which is probably all of us).
Perhaps because of the excitement over last year’s 20th anniversary event, passes sold out unusually quickly in 2014. The Essential Pass sold out five hours after the announcement, and the Spotlight passes were all gone within a week – in both cases before the opening night red carpet screening of OKLAHOMA! (1955) was even announced. So, if walking the red carpet with classic film legends is important to you, you should probably get your passes as soon as they go on sale.
In previous years, TCM has also offered media credentials to active classic film bloggers. These press passes will get you into everything, with the exception of the opening night screening and after-party. There’s also typically a press conference on Thursday morning where bloggers get an opportunity to question Osborne, Mankiewicz, V.P. of Programming Charlie Tabesh, and Festival Managing Director Genevieve McGillicuddy. It’s an excellent opportunity to look behind the curtain, and a good indication of the network’s respect for its engaged and highly creative fan base. Social activities like tweet-ups began last year on Wednesday night, so account for that (if possible) when making longterm travel plans.
Applications for credentials are typically due a month before the event, with notification of acceptance a week later. If you’re planning on applying, but aren’t sure you’ll be approved, I recommend you buy a cheap pass in November (like the Palace Pass), apply for credentials, and then get a refund if you’re approved. (Technically, you will be past the deadline for refunds, but TCM has waived this deadline for bloggers in the past.)
If you’re planning to apply, you can review the 2014 accreditation application to make sure that your site content is consistent with the requirements. And, if you don’t have a blog but have been thinking of starting one, what are you waiting for? But remember: not everybody who applies gets approved. I know of a few very worthy candidates who were passed over last year, for reasons that are beyond me.
Lastly, lodging: the Roosevelt Hotel offers discount rates for TCMFF attendees, but those rooms will likely be gone by the time you read this. Passholders also get a discount at the nearby W Hotel Hollywood. The Loews Hotel, across the street in the Hollywood and Highland Center, has been a lodging partner in recent years, but does not appear to be included on this year’s list (a quick check of their website shows only very pricey rooms available).
Other, lower-cost local options include the nearby Liberty Hotel ($124-$134) and the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel ($139-$179), right behind the Chinese Theater. Additional lodging options include the Hilton Garden Inn ($239 for cheapest room) and Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn ($159) on N. Highland Ave., Saharan Motor Motel ($99+) and Days Inn ($119) on Sunset Blvd. I haven’t stayed at any of these places, so do your due diligence before your make your rezzie.
Note: The Roosevelt, Loews, W Hotel, Celebrity, and Liberty were are all sold out by early January for last year’s event. So even if you’re unsure of attendance, or which pass you will buy, make a reservation right now.
If you read me here, or follow me on Twitter, you know how I feel about the TCM Classic Film Festival. Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with an active repertory film scene, as I do, it’s still no match for the shared experience of the TCMFF. If all goes according to plan, 2015 will be my sixth year attending. I sure hope it won’t be my last.
For more information, visit the TCMFF website. And watch the first promo here.