What is AFI Fest? A self-described "almanac of the year in cinema" put on by the American Film Institute, it's the highest-profile film festival in Los Angeles. This year's program runs from Nov. 7–14, and tickets again are free.
Where is it? Deep in the black heart of Hollywood. Most movies screen in the Chinese 6 multiplex at the Hollywood & Highland Center; the most buzzworthy movies play in the adjoining TCL Chinese Theatre; and a select few are shown down the street at the Egyptian Theatre.
How do you make sense of all the various sections? Listen closely, grasshoppers. The nightly Galas (Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, etc.) are Oscar contenders and other red carpet–worthy affairs soon to be in theaters. Special Screenings (The Past, The Wind Rises) could be likened to mini-Galas. Horror and genre films screen in the Midnight program, whereas World Cinema titles are culled from the year's most prestigious fests — with a particular emphasis on Berlin, Cannes and Toronto. New Auteurs, Young Americans and Shorts are fairly self-explanatory. Breakthrough is the wild card, as it consists of movies submitted by the filmmakers themselves. If you're in a repertory mood, there are also four classics selected by guest artistic director Agnès Varda, godmother of the French New Wave.
How do I get tickets? Advanced registration is now over, but tickets for certain screenings may still be found online at afi.com/afifest or in person at the box office (Hollywood and Highland, Suite 223) between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. A number of screenings will be listed as sold out, but check the box office and website early and often — new tickets are released every day.
Is it possible to get in if tickets sell out online? Nothing is certain in the wild world of film festivals, but it's worth a shot. Rush tickets are made available for even the most seemingly inaccessible screenings (good news, Tom Hanks fans), and a few lucky souls get into each one. Lines for those form an hour in advance, so be sure to arrive early.
Can I avoid the hassle by paying? A $225 Special Screening Pass grants you priority admission to Special Screenings and a $325 Cinepass gets you priority for all regular screenings (excluding the first showing of films in the Special Screenings section, unless a title plays only once) and panels. Patron packages ranging from $650 to $5,000 also are offered, which is good news for the shaded area of the "Cinephiles/People with lots of money" Venn diagram.
See the rest of our AFI preview issue:
Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes