Everything you need to know about tickets, lines, food, parking, parties and more at the Seattle International Film Festival.
The Seattle International Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday night with a gala screening of “Spy” at McCaw Hall (see siff.net for details), is a dizzying three-and-a-half week array of movies — some 450 of them, to be exact. Here’s some advice on how to navigate the madness.
Wondering what movie to choose? Consider your current state of mind. SIFF has conveniently sorted its many offerings into 10 “moods”: “Love,” “Make Me Laugh,” “Open My Eyes,” “Thrill Me,” “Provoke Me,” “Show Me the World,” “Sci-Fi and Fact,” “To the Extreme,” “Creative Streak” and “Face the Music.” You can browse film listings by mood, by program or by category (documentary, archival, comedy, drama, etc.) at siff.net.
Wondering about how and where to buy tickets? There’s no longer a main box office at Pacific Place, but you can buy tickets anytime online at siff.net and print out your tickets at home, or call 206-324-9996 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Note that there is a service charge for online and phone orders: $1.25 per single ticket, up to $5 per order. Before the festival opening on the 14th, advance tickets can be bought in person at the SIFF Cinema Uptown (open daily, 30 minutes before the first screening of the day), the SIFF Film Center (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily), or the Egyptian (daily, 30 minutes before the day’s first screening). As of May 14, all festival venues (Uptown, SIFF Film Center, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Pacific Place, Lincoln Square, Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center, Kirkland Performance Center) will have a box office open daily, one hour before the day’s first screening.
Wondering about ticket packages? If you’re planning to go to a few films, the Cinematic Six-Pack, long a SIFF tradition, is a good deal: six tickets for $66 ($60 for SIFF members), compared to individual ticket prices of $13 each. Also a big saver is the Film Buff 20-Pack, at $200 ($180 SIFF members) for 20 tickets. In both cases, there’s a maximum of two tickets per individual film, and a $3.50 service charge for online/phone purchases of ticket packages. See siff.net for details.
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Wondering about all those lines? Each SIFF screening will have three: a pass-holder line (for those with passes hanging around their necks; you know who you are), a ticket-holders line (for those with tickets in hand) and a rush line. Standby tickets, for screenings that are sold out, go on sale 10 minutes before showtime, at full price (cash preferred). No matter which line you’re in, arriving at least 30 minutes early is a good idea, particularly if you’re picky about where you sit.
Wondering about food and drink? Though most SIFF venues serve standard cinema fare, some have a few extras (there’s beer and wine at the Uptown and Egyptian, for example). Others, such as Pacific Place, have a wealth of restaurants just steps from the door. Outside food is officially not allowed, but SIFF-goers have been known to get away with it; be discreet and tidy.
Wondering about parking and/or bus routes? Go to siff.net/festival-2015 and click on “Festival Venues.” Lots of information there, including what may be SIFF’s least-known bargain: The Uptown offers validated parking at two nearby parking lots; show your ticket stub or pass at the Uptown box office and get a parking pass to put on your dashboard. Passes are limited to 60 a day and are good for weekdays after 6 p.m. and all day Saturday/Sunday.
Wondering about the crowds? Yes, SIFF lines can be long, but I have it on good authority that the crowds at Renton Ikea Performing Arts center (which jumps on the SIFF bandwagon May 21-27) are much smaller. Free parking, too.
Wondering about the parties? SIFF has parties, and lots of them, filled with food, drink, music and post-film chat. Every Saturday night during the fest brings a screening + party — as does opening night, closing night, centerpiece, Kirkland/Renton openings and more. Ticket prices for parties vary; see siff.net for details.
Wondering which movies will be back post-SIFF? Here are just a few SIFF movies that will return soon for regular runs: “The Connection,” “End of the Tour,” “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” “Inside Out,” “Love & Mercy,” “Manglehorn,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Mr. Holmes,” “The Overnight,” “People, Places, Things,” “Shaun the Sheep,” “Slow West,” “Spy” and doubtless many more. You might, of course, want to see these movies at SIFF because of the possibility of special guests, or the fun of catching something early — but you also might want to wait and see the films without the SIFF crowds.
Wondering what the hell the Secret Festival is? This fest-within-the-fest takes place every Sunday morning during SIFF, at the Egyptian. You must buy a Secret Festival pass ($50/$45 SIFF members) to attend, and you must sign an Oath of Silence, vowing that you will never breathe a word about what you’ve seen. (And no, they are not kidding.) Programming at the Secret Festival might be a movie tied up in legal/copyright problems that can’t officially be shown; a movie promised for a prominent premiere elsewhere post-SIFF; a lost classic; a sneak peek. You might see something great; you might be disappointed. Who knows? I certainly don’t. Happy SIFF-ing!