TCMFF 2023: What Really Happened

Just a few short weeks after the TCMFF 2023 schedule was revealed, now the festival itself has come and gone! Until next year. As usual, I made a post of my picks ahead of time, even though I know from experience they will always be somewhat speculative until I get on the ground. It’s still a helpful exercise for me to have to at least vocalize a single choice though, even if I end up doing something else.

One thing I don’t always do, though, is a recap of what I actually did end up seeing, and why those may have changed. I thought it would be helpful for me to keep in mind for future decision making processes.

Overall, this year I tried to keep it simple: I didn’t skip any screenings in order to wait in line for something else, or leave early to grab a queue card, or honestly even wait in any lines where I wasn’t 95% certain I was going to get in. Looking back, I perhaps skewed a bit too heavily on this chill, non-confrontational vibe (which meant fewer surprises), but it was also probably the festival with the least moments of stress or anxiety for me, so I’ll take it.

By the Numbers

Queue Numbers

Highest: #78 The Killers, #095 House of Wax, #130 One Way Passage

Lowest: #001 BUtterfield 8, #007 Xanadu, #012 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

I had pretty low numbers throughout, usually only arriving about 5-20 minutes before queue cards were distributed. I still really like the queue card system, as it discourages everyone (including myself!) from camping out.

Most Viewed Decades

1920s: 1

1930s: 2

1940s: 4

1950s: 3

1960s: 1

1980s: 2


Earliest: Clash of the Wolves (1925)

Most Recent: Crossing Delancey (1988)


Chinese Multiplex House 1: 2

Chinese Multiplex House 4: 2

Chinese Multiplex House 6: 6

TCL Chinese IMAX: 1

Hollywood Legion Theater: 2

I spent most of my time in the multiplex, especially House 6! That theater hit a sweet spot for me of being big enough that I felt confident walking up at any time, but also small enough that there were some slightly more obscure titles. Unfortunately it, along with the other theaters in the multiplex, have such uncomfortable seats that I think I’ll need to factor that into future festivals 😭

Thursday, April 13

Planned: Hairspray (1988), Actual: One Way Passage (1932)

We’ve been having uncharacteristically cool and rainy weather here in Southern California over the past few months, and though this week was pretty mild in comparison to our earlier “atmospheric rivers,” there was a threat of a few showers on Thursday evening. I’d been planning to go to Hairspray, since I’ve never gone to a poolside screening, but… at the last minute (as in, shortly before we were going to be allowed to enter the pool area), they sent a push notification saying that the Hairspray screening was being moved inside, into the Blossom Room, due to “inclement weather.” Since the pool was my main deciding factor for Hairspray, I decided instead to dash over to the multiplex and do One Way Passage instead. This was actually my highest queue card number of the entire festival (#130) since it was such a late decision, but I made it in easily and had a great time. My plan for the pool remains on the horizon for next year.

Planned: Genevieve (1953), Actual: Snacks and sleep

I was slightly double-booked this week, and had actually just flown in from Denver earlier in the day on Thursday! So by this point in the day I was still travel-weary and not quite put together. Instead of doing the late-night spot (also for a film I worried might be a bit slow), I opted instead to set myself up for the rest of the festival by grabbing some snacks at the Hollywood Blvd. Target and by not falling into sleep debt immediately.

Friday, April 14

Planned: The Old Maid (1939), Actual: Sleep and breakfast

I always know going in the late and early spots are the most susceptible to re-plannings, and based on how many people I saw were going to The Old Maid, I decided to get to a slower start. I had a nice, leisurely breakfast and coffee on my little hotel patio.

In the foreground, a hand holding a cup of coffee. Their feet are crossed on the balcony wall behind it. Behind the balcony, palm trees and a pool are visible.

Planned: Footlight Parade (1933), Actual: East of Eden (1955)

Halfway into the second day of the festival, and still nothing has gone exactly as planned! I’d unexpectedly done One Way Passage so I had my pre-Code cred secured. Since I didn’t do the early screening, I decided on East of Eden since it was starting a bit sooner than Footlight Parade, and it felt like something big and grand and sumptuous to start the day. I don’t think I’d seen this since I was a teenager so it truly hit me in the face like a ton of bricks.

Planned: Blood on the Moon (1948), Actual: Blood on the Moon (1948)

The Mitchum draw was strong, so I accomplished this as planned! I did check the queue for The Strawberry Blonde for what I thought might be a backup, but it was already in the 180s (for a 277 seat theater)—which ended up being much higher than my number for Blood on the Moon! So I trusted in the original plan and made it in without too much sweat.

Planned: Penny Serenade (1941), Actual: Penny Serenade (1941)

Here I had a pretty good run of enacting my plans, partly because I’d somewhat made those decisions with the timings/locations already in mind! Back-to-back-to-back in the multiplex, each ending about an hour before the next began, which made it easy to flow between them.

Planned: House of Wax 3D (1953), Actual: House of Wax 3D (1953)

Watching the pre-Fest chatter, I’d actually thought this was one might be too crowded based on my turnaround time from Penny Serenade. So when I was looking at the schedule again on Wednesday, I’d decided I might just go to Ocean’s Eleven (2001) instead—since it’s a newer movie, and in the TCL Chinese IMAX, I figured it would be pretty low key getting in and a nice break from the multiplex. Then about 10 minutes after making that decision, they announced that George Clooney would be at Ocean’s Eleven. So I promptly abandoned that plan—and figured he’d draw enough people away from the other screenings at that time and I’d be safe in House of Wax.

Planned: The Batwoman (1968), Actual: Sleep

I felt really bad to miss this one but was fading fast during House of Wax. I am really hoping the restoration screens again soon, as I know some of their previously screened El Santos did!

Saturday, April 15

Planned: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Actual: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

This was maybe my one certainty of the festival, and it worked out well! Keeping track of some of the line issues from the previous day helped—I found the semi-informal line outside the Grauman courtyard before it officially opened at 8am, which was then let inside in a very orderly fashion.

Planned: When Worlds Collide (1951), Actual: Bless This Mess: Laurel and Hardy Shorts

This change was mostly a time + distance consideration: Seven Brides got out a bit late, so I would’ve only had about 20 minutes to trek all the way up the Legion. Instead, I ambled over to the multiplex and walked into a screening that I knew would get me out in time to make my next movie, but hadn’t really been on my radar previously. It was a collection of Laurel and Hardy shorts, including: Going Bye-Bye (1934), Them Thar Hills (1934) and Tit for Tat (1935). And it was a very pleasant surprise! I’m not super familiar with Laurel and Hardy, but they definitely had the goods. I especially liked Going Bye-Bye, if only for Hardy’s incredible way to answer the phone: “Excuse me please, my ear is full of milk.”

Planned: Crossing Delancey (1988), Actual: Crossing Delancey (1988)

Another one as planned! And the shorter length of the Laurel and Hardy program made it very easy to get up to the Legion with plenty of time for this one. Peter Riegert and Amy Irving were too cute.

Planned: BUtterfield 8 (1960), Actual: BUtterfield 8 (1960)

Even considering the walk back down from the Legion, this choice came with a built-in 2 hour break, which gave me time to walk back to the multiplex area, get food, and still be #001 back in line.

Planned: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Actual: Sleep

This was already a pretty impossible turnaround (BUtterfield was supposed to end at 9pm, and Hunchback STARTED at 9pm). BUtterfield ran a tiny bit late, and I’d mostly wanted to go to this for the Doug Jones introduction, so I felt at peace skipping this one. I did pass the theater and overheard the staff person saying they didn’t think they had started yet, so I probably could have made it… but the Multiplex seats were wearing me down by this point too, and the prospect of sitting in them longer did not feel particularly appealing. And I always feel a little too bad to leave after a guest’s intro, so I knew I’d probably end up staying in slight discomfort.

Instead, I headed back to my hotel room for a brief sojourn, as it felt appropriate to take a quick disco nap in anticipation of…

Planned: Xanadu (1980), Actual: Xanadu (1980)

OK maybe this was my other certainty. And it was fabulous and fun!

Sunday, April 16

Planned: Heaven Can Wait (1943), Actual: Sleep

Honestly, I knew this was a lie when I was typing out my planning post but still felt obligated to make a selection on the off chance I did do something. But I also had to pack and check out of my hotel!, so took me a bit longer to get out and going on my day already.

Planned: Six Degrees of Separation (1993), Actual: The Red Shoes (1948)

The walk all the way up to the Legion felt daunting first thing in the morning, so I switched to The Red Shoes, which I had never seen theatrically. I saw this for the first time in 2018, after knowing about it for a long time and “saving” it for the right moment. I figured I would love it based on everything I knew about it! I’m going to admit now though, that while I could recognize it as obviously visually stunning, the story and characters left me a bit cold. So, I thought the theatrical experience might help a bit, but I think it just engrained my opinions a bit deeper. Good to know!

Planned: All About Eve (1950), Actual: The Killers (1946)

Before the festival started, I was already aware that it seemed like a lot of the programming choices this year were things that I’d already seen, so I tried somewhat to factor in new-to-me’s when I was making my picks. As recorded here, some of those worked out—but a lot of them were on the early/late slots, or had some other factor that made me choose something else in the moment. So by this point, I realized that I’d hardly seen anything new. So I made the last second decision to see The Killers, which was an added TBA and something I’d never seen, instead All About Eve, an old favorite. Though the All About Eve screening sounded fabulous.

Planned: Clash of the Wolves (1925), Actual: Clash of the Wolves (1925)

Final film, and one of my favorite experiences of the festival, so really happy with this choice! I’m not sure if I’d ever seen a Rin Tin Tin movie before in its entirety, but it was super fun. I can totally see how he could save a studio. The dog having to wear a fake beard so he wouldn’t be recognized is still making me laugh to think about.

And that’s it for another year! Beyond my lies in my planning post, I do think I’m getting more adept at considering what I will actually be in the mood for on the day. Til next year!

1 thought on “TCMFF 2023: What Really Happened”

  1. I really enjoyed your recap, Emily, and I love the unique way you presented your experience. So fun! We didn’t share a single screening, but I hope to see you next year!

    — Karen

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