TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule Released–How We Pick Movies and Where I’ll Be


The TCM Classic Film Festival released its full schedule this past week, and social media has been abuzz ever since with attendees announcing their festival picks. Some festivalgoers opt to prioritize screenings of movies new to them, others prefer to see old favorites alongside others who love the film as they do.

It seems to come down to a difference in what attendees hope to get out of the festival. For those who give priority to the “new-to-me” screenings, the TCM Classic Film Festival serves as a pathway to expanded film fluency, an opportunity to close the gaps in their film repertoire, gaps that we all have regardless of our level of knowledge. For those who prefer to put movies they’ve seen before at the top of their list, sometimes movies they’ve seen dozens of times, the festival is a way to bond with other classic film lovers, to visit with those who have a special connection to a particular movie or genre. And, naturally, there are those who consciously combine the two practices.

Historically speaking, I’ve tended to run with the “old favorites” crowd. Over the past 6 years that I’ve attended what is known affectionately as “TCMFF,” I’ve found that the most useful gift that the festival can give me personally, and that I can then give to Backlots’ readers, is a connection with the movies and the people who attend the festival. At last year’s screening of The More the Merrier, for example, I knew about half the audience, and I knew how much they loved the movie. There is a sense of community that comes from that, one that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had gone to see a movie with which I was unfamiliar.

I’m aware that I have a bit of privilege when it comes to picking movies for TCMFF. The San Francisco Bay Area provides easy access to classic movies, and chances are good that a movie shown at TCMFF that I’ve never seen will also play at the Castro or the Roxie at some point, so I can feel comfortable settling in with an old favorite on the big screen. Many attendees don’t have such easy access to classics, and seeing an old favorite on the big screen would be a wasted opportunity to expand their viewing repertoire. One of the beautiful things about TCMFF is that it can be easily customized for the individual attendee–her interests, preferences, and what she wants to get out of the festival as a whole.

With that context in mind, here is my TCMFF schedule:


6:30 PM: Jezebel (1938)

9:30 PM: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)


9:00 AM: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

11:30 AM: Born Yesterday (1950)

2:00 PM: Trivia at the Roosevelt

4:30 PM: So This is Paris (1926)

7:00 PM: Red-Headed Woman (1932)

9:30 PM: Laura (1944)


9:00 AM: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

12:00 PM: The Awful Truth (1937)

5:00 PM: Hollywood Home Movies

6:30 PM: Theodora Goes Wild (1936)

9:30 PM: Black Narcissus (1947)


10:15 AM: The Egg and I (1947)

1:30 PM: The Palm Beach Story (1942)

4:30 PM: Singin’ In the Rain (1952)

8:00 PM: Speedy (1928)

Some notes on my choices:

  • Black Narcissus and Laura are both on nitrate. Nitrate film is rarely shown in theaters today–due to the fragility and flammability of the stock (it has its own source of oxygen, and famously keeps burning when submerged in water), theaters have to have a special license to be able to use the stock in a projection booth. Nitrate is known for the “shimmering” quality it gives the film, and suffice it to say I’m extraordinarily excited to see this on nitrate:


  • The 9:30 PM slot on Friday is very difficult, as it pits Laura against Twentieth Century (1934) against Cat People (1942). Laura barely ekes out a win over Twentieth Century simply because of the nitrate, but it pains me to abandon Carole Lombard. TCMFF reserves several TBA slots at the end of the festival for movies that overflow, and I’m hoping that Twentieth Century fills one of those spots.
  • While not a movie per se, the Hollywood Home Movies event at Club TCM is always a highlight of the festival for me. In cooperation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, TCM brings in rare video of the stars at home and on the set, providing glimpses into their lives often narrated by the children or relatives of the people depicted sitting right there on the stage. It’s marvelous.

I’ll keep you posted with any more news. Thanks for reading!


5 responses to “TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule Released–How We Pick Movies and Where I’ll Be

  1. Wow, we have 9 in common. I tend to do a mix of old favorites and new to me. Plus, I have my 17 YO daughter with me, and almost everything is new to her. I try to pick ones that we will both like and suggest spots where she might want to ditch me. I’m in San Diego, and we have modest offering of classic films, but I can almost guarantee that what is considered rare at TCMFF probably won’t hit San Diego theaters. Plus, the classics we get are more common one, such as Some Like It Hot or The Maltese Falcon, but rarely things like The Awful Truth or Monkey Business. I’ll a link to your picks from mine.

  2. Wow cool, we should meet up! Yes, in San Francisco we have an unusual array of rare movies, lots of cinephiles up here so lots of demand. What is your daughter seeing?

  3. Mostly we’re running the same, but she is ditching me on Red-Headed Woman (me) and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (her), on The Awful Truth (me) and The Great Dictator (her), and on Black Narcissus (me) and The Incident (her). We may end up negotiating some sort of Armistice.

  4. As a Mel Brooks fanatic, I would LOVE to see High Anxiety on the big screen (yeah, not as old, but it’s Mel!)! It’s one of my all-time favorites. Hoping I’ll make it to the fest one of these years…

  5. We have 4 in common. Your post exactly expresses my dilemma with choosing my schedule. My tentative schedule has more new-to-me than old favorites, but I might swap some out. My city lacks in options to see classic films on the big screen, with the exception of the TCM/Fathom screenings, but I also want to expand my repertoire. This will be my first festival; luckily from what I’ve heard there are no bad choices.

    I’ve included a link to your picks from mine:

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