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The 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival: Pre-Fest Activities and Day 1

April 17, 2023

The TCM Classic Film Festival wrapped yesterday, and, as always, it was an epic event. Not only do I love getting to see so many classics on the big screen with enthusiastic audiences, but it’s also the one time a year I get to catch up with film friends from around the world, which is always a pleasure.


Though the programming only lasts three and a half days, the festivities for me begin well before the official kickoff. Here’s a quick recap of my pre-fest activities and day one.



For the last few years, I’ve met up for dinner with a classic film blogger group I’m part of. This year, we enjoyed dinner at the Smoke House in Burbank, a legendary restaurant I had never been to before. That was a treat, as well as the wonderful conversations we shared.



For me, Wednesday started with a bang: My very first TCMFF media welcome reception. (All the past years I’ve held a media pass I had to work during this event.) I actually think this was the very first time I’ve also been in a room with all the network hosts! Each host told us what they were most looking forward to at this year’s fest, from Donald Bogle’s Robert Osborne Award presentation to simply spending time with fans. Afterwards, they mingled with the media—I had to ask if they always do that, and the answer was yes!—and I had a brief chance to be within Alicia Malone and Ben Mankiewicz‘s presence when they stopped by the groups I was chatting with.


TCM General Manager Pola Chagnon with hosts Eddie Muller, Jacqueline Stewart, Dave Karger, Alicia Malone and Ben Mankiewicz. (Photo by Kim Luperi)

Though I’m local, another Wednesday highlight was spending the night at the Roosevelt. After dinner, my boyfriend and I leisurely explored the historic hotel, which boasts treasures and gems throughout, like a gorgeous old-fashioned mail slot and a retro two-lane bowling alley.




By the time the official festivities kicked off, it felt like I had been in the fest cycle for a few days. Part of that was the events that occurred before opening day, and the other part was all the fest prep I was doing for my pre-Code Instagram account. (You can check that out HERE if you haven’t already.)


I covered the red carpet the last several years I’ve had a media pass, and while I applied to do so again, I didn’t get the gig. (Several other bloggers had the same experience.) As happens at TCMFF, though, misses turn into wins—in this case, two of them! The first: I attended the opening night party for the first time ever. I enjoyed a complimentary cocktail and wonderful, unexpected conversation with several film archivists, one of whom knew my mentor in college. Small world, isn’t it? The second: I actually was able to make the first block of movies, something that hasn’t happened in years. It was a treat watching One Way Passage (1932) with a packed house. I’ve seen the Kay Francis-William Powell romance before, but experiencing the gorgeous new restoration on the big screen with fellow fans proved to be the perfect way to officially kick off the festivities.

One Way Passage French poster.jpeg

One Way Passage was booked for Theater 6, the middle capacity theater of the three TCM uses in the Multiplex. The line already snaked around the corner when I hopped in around 6pm, which genuinely shocked me! But it’s a pre-Code, so I should really never be surprised. Luckily, most of the Spotlight and VIP guests were attending the opening night film at that time, so I had no problem getting in with queue card 61. That reminded me to be on my toes, though.


Mark A. Vieira, the author of one of my favorite pre-Code books, Sin in Soft Focus, introduced the film. I actually just wrote about this movie for TCM, so I was familiar with most of stories and trivia he regaled us with. That said, I hadn't heard some of the diary entries from Kay Francis and Aline MacMahon that he shared. Honestly, it seemed like everyone was drunk on that set. Maybe save for MacMahon, but I haven’t read all her recollections!


While I really wanted to see Genevieve (1953), it started at 10:15pm, which was much too late for me. Luckily, I mentally noted two DVDs of Genevieve at LA’s Central Library last weekend. It won’t be the same as watching it with a TCM crowd, but at least I’ll be able to see the movie.


Stay tuned for my recap of the first full day of TCMFF, coming soon!

thanks for stopping by!

I See a Dark Theater is a website dedicated to classic movie-going—and loving—in the City of Angels. Whether it's coverage on screenings, special presentations, or Q&As around Los Angeles that you're looking for, or commentary on the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of classic cinema, you've come to the right place for a variety of pieces written with zeal, awe, and (occasionally) wit. Enjoy.

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