(UPDATES are indicated in italics. Last update 1/11/14)
Turner Classic Movies turns 20 next April. And they want you to party like it’s 1939.
Today, the network announced the dates for the 2014 edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival, the most anticipated weekend of the year for old movie buffs. From Thursday, April 10 through Sunday, April 13, thousands of fans of all ages will gather in Hollywood’s most historic venues for more than 100 screenings and special events spread over 80 delightfully bleary-eyed hours. The fifth annual Festival will also serve as a four-day birthday celebration for the network, which debuted on April 14, 1994.
There’s no word yet on what films will be presented, but TCM launched two decades ago with a broadcast of GONE WITH THE WIND – a movie that’s never been screened at the Festival, and which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2014.
UPDATE 11/13/2013 – TCM has announced the first three titles for the 2014 event: the restored GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), Harold Lloyd’s WHY WORRY (1923), and the IMAX 3-D “conversion” of THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). You can read more about that here. TCM has, as yet, not announced the opening night screening. But phone reps have reportedly told callers it will NOT be one of the three announced films.
UPDATE 1/11/2014 – TCM announced four additional titles, all of which are restored. You can read about those selections, and who is footing the bill for the restorations, here.
The historic – and some say haunted – Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd. will again serve as TCMFF 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 TV studio, where attendees can watch on-air hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz interview celebrities and special guests. There’s also a pop-up boutique where you can score TCM t-shirts, Osborne bobbleheads, and all manner of geeky classic film collectibles that will embarrass your significant other when guests come to visit (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything).
Osborne and Mankiewicz will once again serve as emcees for the event, introducing screenings at the TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre – recently rechristened as one of the largest IMAX venues in the world – and the Egyptian Theater, as well as the nearby Chinese 6 multiplex and other locations (the El Capitan and Cinerama Dome also served as venues in 2013). 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. Plus, one lucky viewer will co-host a screening alongside Osborne, as part of the network’s recently announced search for the “Ultimate Fan.”
UPDATE 1/11/14 – The winner of the Ultimate Fan Contest is Tiffany Vazquez from the New York area. You can watch her winning entry here.
The 2014 Festival’s theme is “Family in the Movies: The Ties that Bind,” promising to “showcase on-screen clans of all types – big and small, happy and imperfect, musical and dramatic.” Selections are expected to focus on Hollywood dynasties (behind- and in-front-of the camera), stock companies (as employed by iconic directors like John Ford and Preston Sturges), and the kinship of the craftspeople who brought some of the most beloved films of all time to life.
Perhaps the best news of all: after a substantial increase in 2013, TCM has not increased the price of passes for the 2014 event.
“Last year, we made some adjustments to our pricing structure for the first time in order to fulfill fan demand that we make the festival a permanent, annual event,” a TCM spokesperson told me in an email message. “Since we made that adjustment last year, we did not need to change pass prices this year.”
Whatever the reason, this was a good call on TCM’s part. I look at it as a birthday present to loyal attendees who have supported the Festival year after year.
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 (Debbie Reynolds and Leonard Maltin in past years) and a gift bag for $1,599. (TCM sells a very limited number of these, so act fast, Mr. Kane.)
The Essential Pass grants full access to all TCMFF events (excluding the opening night VF party), as well as a gift bag, for $699. The Classic Pass gives you everything except the as-yet-unannounced opening night red-carpet screening (and the gift bag) for $549. And, for non-night owls, the Matinee Pass gets you into all screenings and Club TCM events before 6 p.m. for $349. Matinee Pass access begins on Friday morning.
UPDATE 1/11/2014 – The Essential Pass sold out five hours after passes went on sale, and the Spotlight Pass a week later, on November 21. That means that access to the opening night red carpet screening at the TCL Chinese Theater is no longer available, at any pass level.
TCM has also brought back the Deal of the Century, the $249 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 major screenings happen at these two venues, it’s a great option for anyone on a budget (which is probably all of us).
UPDATE 11/13/2013 – While Classic, Matinee and Palace passholders do not receive the Festival gift bag, the bag itself, and some items contained therein, are usually available from the TCMFF shop in the Roosevelt lobby. So don’t buy a more expensive pass just for the bag. Also: passholders at all levels get the official Festival program book.
One thing to remember when planning your pass purchase: the TCL Chinese Theatre now seats 230 fewer people than it did before the renovation. The venue previously accommodated 1,162 audience members; it now holds 932 in larger, stadium-style seats. A TCM spokesperson indicated this would have “minimal impact on the number of passes sold,” but it will definitely alter attendee decision-making once the Festival begins. (In past years a “sell-out” at Grauman’s was a relatively rare occurrence. That may no longer be the case.)
Same-day tickets are also available for most screenings once TCMFF passholders have been accommodated. (But you’ll have to wait on a standby line.) PRO TIP: if you go the discount route and pick the Palace Pass, you can supplement with walk-up tickets for screenings at the Multiplex.
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 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.
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 2013 accreditation application to make sure that your site content is consistent with the requirements. And, if don’t have a blog but have been thinking of starting one, what are you waiting for?
Lastly, lodging: the Roosevelt Hotel offers discount rates (starting at $235 per night) for TCMFF attendees, but those rooms will likely be gone by the time you read this. Passholders also get a discount at the Loews Hotel in the Hollywood and Highland Center ($300 range), right across the street. Other, lower-cost local options include the nearby Liberty Hotel ($119-$144) and the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel ($149), right behind the Chinese Theater. According to my friend Kelly J. Kitchens, founder and moderator of the Going to the TCM Film Festival Facebook group, these two properties “used to be apartments in the ’40s” and include a microwave and a small fridge. (You will appreciate this when you come home from the movies at 2 a.m., and all you’ve eaten is popcorn.)
UPDATE 1/11/14 – The Roosevelt, Loews, W Hotel, Celebrity, and Liberty are all sold out. Other lodging options include the Hilton Garden Inn ($203 for cheapest room) and Best Western Hollywood Plaza Inn ($157) on N. Highland Ave., Saharan Motor Motel ($89+) and Days Inn ($109) on Sunset Blvd.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if you love Turner Classic Movies, you have to figure out a way to get to this thing. To paraphrase Scarlett O’Hara: Tomorrow may be another day, but there will never be another chance to celebrate the 20th anniversary of TCM with thousands of other people who appreciate classic film just as much as you do.
UPDATE #1 9/30/13 – with quotes from TCM spokesperson and additional information on TCL seating capacity.