AFI Fest: The Basics
What is AFI Fest? L.A.'s premier film festival, which begins its 26th edition Nov. 1 with the world premiere of Hitchcock and ends Nov. 8. If you're a cinephile in L.A., it's probably your favorite time of the year — not least because, for four years running now, it's 100 percent free.
Where does it take place? Hollywood. Gala presentations — the big movies, basically, like the just-mentioned Hitchcock, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook — are in Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and a number of screenings are in the Egyptian a block east, but the lion's share of the fest takes place in the Mann Chinese 6. For the complete schedule, go to afi.com/afifest.
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There are many different sections of the festival. How do I keep track of them all? They're actually fairly straightforward. Galas are the Oscar hopefuls you'll be able to see in a few weeks anyway. Special Screenings are essentially mini-galas. World Cinema consists mainly of international heavy hitters from the year's major fests (Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto). Midnight is the horror/genre program. New Auteurs, Young Americans and Shorts are exactly what they sound like. While these films were scouted by the festival's programmers, the Breakthrough section is for films submitted by filmmakers. There's also a small repertory section programmed by director Bernardo Bertolucci, this year's guest artistic director.
How do I get tickets? Advanced registration has already closed, but fear not: Tickets for some screenings can still be reserved online at afi.com/afifest or in person at the box office at Hollywood & Highland, Level 4, Suite 433, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. When you reserve online, you still have to show up early to pick up your ticket at that box office. Even if a screening says "sold out," new tickets are released all day every day, so keep checking the website and box office.
If tickets are sold out online, can I show up anyway? You can try. There are rush tickets available for most screenings (including the Galas), and a number of people tend to get in to each one. Lines for those start forming an hour before screening time.
Can I just pay money to avoid this ticket frenzy? Yes. A $125 Special Screening Pass gets you priority admission for all the Special Screenings and a $250 Cinepass gets you priority for all regular screenings (minus the first showing of films in the Special Screenings section). The fest also offers varying levels of "patron packages" for $550-$5,000. —Michael Nordine