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Thursday, May 18, 2017

TCM Classic Film Festival: The Caste System Lives On (Part Two of Three)

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As the first of three posts on attending the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles states, staying home and watching "the game" on television is the better course of action. In the case of the festival, the reason is that poor planning prevents enjoying a great deal of the otherwise available tremendous offerings.

A primary culprit for being lucky to attend roughly 25-percent of the offerings when hitting close to the 50-percent mark should have been feasible was the unduly inequitable administration of the festival pass program.

The first post on this subject also discusses using analogies in these reviews. The analogy for today is especially apt because it comes from a festival film. A scene in the star-studded comedy "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" has the group of motorists who are seeking a treasure discussing the most equitable way to divvy up any found loot. A character makes a suggestion that seem fair and/or benefits that individual only to have another character whose share is larger under an alternative scheme protest and offer an alternative.

The related dilemma regarding the scheme for admitting pass holders into festival events relates to giving folks (such as your not-so-humble reviewer and his highly significant other) who pay $649 a head and others whose per-person cost to MERELY attend screenings and other presentations at the 4-day event is $799 a fair shot at getting in without waiting in line 90 minutes. The sad truth was that even arriving that early can result in heartache in the dual forms of not getting in to the desired event after waiving the opportunity to wait 90 minutes to attend a concurrent event.

Much of the fault lies with the $2,149 Spotlight passes. As shown below, purchasers of these passes get the Hollywood royal treatment (complete with walking the red carpet) at the unfair expense of those of us who do not exactly pay chump change to attend the event. As readers of the first post in this series know, yours truly has common sense solutions


Knowing before purchasing two $649 Classic passes that the "one-percenters" with Spotlight passes can waltz into a screening at their leisure would have been critical information. This presents the possibility of the elite filling the venue and leaving the rest of us on the curb. Learning of this early in the festival resulted in the oft-mentioned practice of arriving roughly 90 minutes before each screening to be near the front of the "steerage" line so as to have a good chance to get in. The fact that the line would rapidly fill in behind us spoke to the wisdom of this tactic.

The most equitable solution would have been to eliminate the Spotlight category altogether or at least eliminate "cutsies." The next best solution would have been to limit the number of preferential Spotlight seats to a set percentage of the seats in a theater or an event and to make every Spotlight pass holder who does not make that cut join the hoi polloi who have paid at least $649 each for the event.

The organizers compound this problem through the dual practices of reserving entire rows of prime real estate in theaters for the privileged few and distributing free tickets to people whose "V.I.P." status (which allows them to enter the theater before the highly paying public) seems to be based on being buddies with the organizers. 


On a larger level, requiring anyone to arrive 90 minutes early for a screening at an event for which they paid a significant amount is not right. A version of the tried-and-true first-in-time-first-in-line system is a better alternative.

It seems that the most fair and easily administered version of first-come-first-served is a system under which the order in which a pass in each class is purchased determines the order in which people can be admitted.

The method whereby Southwest Airlines boards its passengers provides another model; this is how yours truly understood admission to individual festival events was managed before learning the awful truth. This alternative combines an established number of people into a group in which each individual has equal status for admission purposes. In the case of TCM, the first 25 people to buy passes in a class could be "Group One" and allowed into a theater ahead of the next 25 pass holders who comprise "Group Two," etc. A sticker on the pass would establish the group to which the person belongs and would determine the order for entering the venue.


A-list actors discussing their careers was a heavily hyped and hugely anticipated element of the TCM festival; missing most of those presentations was majorly disappointing.

We sacrificed attending any Saturday morning matinee to facilitate attending a talk by Michael Douglas. Roughly 50 people were in the "steerage" line when we arrived nearly two hours before the start time. We knew that so many elites would show up that we would not get in and left.

Attending a screening (for which we arrived 90 minutes early) as an alternative to the Douglas event precluded arriving 90 minutes early to try to see Lee Grant, who was speaking in the Club TCM that was advertised as a benefit of a Classic pass.

Aside from many relevant suggestions in these posts on the festival, a common sense solution regarding celebrity presentations is to simulcast them for Classic members in Club TCM when feasible and additionally rebroadcast them at announced times during the festival.


In true trilogy style, the third post in this series focuses on the many small ways that the organizers could have made the festival more enjoyable for the folks who paid $800 or $649 a head to have the advertised experience.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any festival-related musings is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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