Thursday, April 28, 2016

TCM Classic Film Festival Press Conference

2016 TCMFF Press Conference
Left to right: Tabesh, Dorian, Mankiewicz & McGillicuddy
On Wednesday April 27th, TCM held a press conference before the start of their classic film festival. The conference panel consisted of Charles Tabesh, senior VP of programming, Jennifer Dorian, Ben Mankiewicz, host of TCM and Genevieve McGillicuddy, VP of brand activations and partnerships and festival director. Tabesh and McGillicuddy oversee the logistics of the festival and Mankiewicz is taking a bigger role this year, as he did last year, in the absence of Robert Osborne. He'll be conducting most of the big interviews that will happen during the festival.

Here are some key takeaways from the press conference:

  • Mankiewicz, who is introducing the opening night film All the President's Men (1976), gets emotional every time he sees the movie because of the connection to his father. NY Post's Lou Lumenick has a great article with more details.
  • According to McGillicuddy the projected number of attendees this year is 26,000 which includes passholders and standby attendees. I didn't realize it was that many people!
  • TCM is launching FilmStruck (think of it like "awestruck"), a new subscription service. They've teamed up with Criterion, who will end their current partnership with Hulu, and together will be curating arthouse films, indie and cult classics and other more obscure films. Jennifer Dorian says this fills a need in the marketplace. It's important to note that this is not a standalone streaming TCM service. While it was not said at the conference, TCM's relationships with cable TV companies most likely prevents them from having such a service. Read Will McKinley's post for more details about FilmStruck.
  • TCM is launching TCM Backlot, an official fan club. The membership costs $87 a year and comes with a variety of perks. There will be meet-ups across the country, exclusive content for subscribers, etc. The Backlot will give members a behind-the-scenes look at TCM and an opportunity to share feedback.  Dorian says "early members will help us build the club of our dreams." I have a membership and will be following up with my thoughts on this blog.
  • Based off feedback, The Manchurian Candidate (1962) will be the most sought after event at the festival. Tabesh says Angela Lansbury, who will be at the screening, is always a big hit with TCM fans.
  • McGillicuddy says they've been really working hard on curating Club TCM events and she's proud of the offerings this year.
  • On sought after guests, Tabesh says Olivia de Havilland almost made it to the festival one year and their number one pick Doris Day is unlikely to ever be a guest. McGillicuddy said Sidney Poitier is someone they've tried to get multiple times are still hopeful he will come. Tabesh says Barbra Streisand is interested but hasn't been able to make it work with her schedule.
  • Ben Mankiewicz said "The success that the previous six festivals have had has unquestionably played a role in smoothing it over for some people because their friends and colleagues and other big stars have told them this is a worthwhile thing..." Having several successful festivals under their belt has opened up opportunities to feature other special guests. For example, this was key in getting Faye Dunaway to attend this year. Although it was not said during the conference, I do believe having Sophia Loren last year really made a difference. I can imagine that opened an opportunity to feature Gina Lollobrigida.
  • Spotlight and Essentials passes sold out in 14 minutes. They won't be expanding the festival to add more venues, screenings and days. They want to keep the intimate atmosphere of the festival.
  • Tabesh says the industry is moving towards digital. Access to 35mm prints and the ability to show them becomes more and more restricted over time.

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