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TCM Film Festival 2014 breaks previous attendance records

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Genevieve McGillicuddy, Managing Director of the Turner Classic Film Festival, reveals new attendance figures for the festival in an exclusive interview for the Examiner in the first official discussion concerning attendance figures and other topics crucial to the success of the annual celebration of classic film in Hollywood.

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1.This year saw the addition of two more poolside screenings, and they all seemed well-attended. Thursday evening, April 10, "American Graffiti" was screened after a lively discussion with Ben Mankiewicz, Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark, and Paul Le Mat. Friday evening was a screening of "The Music Man," and Saturday's poolside film was "The Muppet Movie" with Bill Hader. Do you think this will be a continuing venue for future festivals?

We were very pleased to be able to add additional poolside screening events this past year, and we do hope to continue this in the future.

2. Veteran stage and screen star Mickey Rooney, who was a guest at several TCM events, passed away on April 6, 2014, at the age of 93 after spending almost his entire life in show business. How difficult was it to arrange the special tribute to Mickey Rooney on Sunday as a last-minute addition to the schedule? What kind of feedback did you receive from fans at the festival?

The idea of the tribute, with a special conversation with his long-time friend and colleague Margaret O’Brien, and the screening of "National Velvet" came together very quickly. Ms. O’Brien had already confirmed being a part of the Festival for the screening of "Meet Me In St. Louis," and she graciously agreed to be a part of the tribute, as well. We were very pleased that we could remember Mickey Rooney’s unique career and life with the family of TCM fans that weekend, especially given that he had been a part of the Festival and other TCM events in recent years. We received very positive feedback from the audience.

3. Since the theme this year was 'Family in the Movies,' do you feel that festival pass holders seem ever more enthusiastic about reconnecting once a year with their friends from previous festivals? Was this enduring camaraderie a surprise from the initial vision of the festival?

It’s interesting—when we have surveyed fans about aspects the Film Festival, we often hear that one of the things fans enjoy the most about the Festival is standing in line. Normally, this is something that folks might complain about, but instead, it becomes a great opportunity to strike up a friendship with someone standing next to you who shares your passion for William Powell or Miriam Hopkins. I think this feedback says a lot about what attracts fans to the Festival in the first place, and why they return—the special bond that we all share as classic movie lovers.

It has been exciting to watch the community of TCM fans not only come together in Hollywood once a year, but to also join us at Road to Hollywood events, the TCM Classic Cruise, and tours in LA and NY, and elsewhere across the country. A key goal of the Festival, since day one, has been to bring TCM and fans together, to foster and build that community—social media has helped spur this even further, continuing to grow those connections and make them stronger. We are thrilled that the Festival has become such an important gathering spot for classic movie fans of all stripes.

4. How would you gauge attendance this year? Were passes sold out sooner than ever before? Can you share some general attendance figures?

We had our largest audience ever, this year, topping a total attendance of over 26,000. Festival passes did sell faster than earlier years—usually we have our Classic Passes available until relatively close to the Festival dates, but this year, we sold out of them before the end of February. With each passing year, pass sales accelerate, at all levels.

5. The burgeoning Special Guest List seems to create a more diverse choice as far as genres of films that are scheduled and the depth of discussions. Do you envision even more additions next year? Are there any Special Guests you are hoping will participate next year that haven't previously attended a Turner Classic Film Festival?

There are definitely a number of people who we would like to invite to the Festival who have not yet attended. I think we’ll always highlight a few attendees with tributes each year, but we don’t necessarily look to invite a certain number.

6. What film would you like to see at next year's festival that you haven't yet seen on the big screen?

That’s a tough question! Happily, there are many personal favorites that we’ve been able to present in the past five years—"The Best Years of Our Lives," "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "A Matter of Life and Death," and "Metropolis," to name a few. It would be wonderful to see Garbo on the big screen in "Flesh and the Devil", or a glorious Technicolor production like "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp"or "Magnificent Obsession.".

Dates for the 2015 Festival have not yet been announced.

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