2014 Florida Film Festival: Pre-Festival Passholders Dinner

FFF2014LogoLast night, I went the the Pre-Festival Passholders Dinner. This is an unofficial Film Festival event. After I went on about how I’m not a party kind of person, you might be surprised that I would go to an event where I knew no one. But this particular event is my personal best case scenario for meeting people. It was a sit down dinner in a restaurant. Everyone has a known common interest that it it easy to talk about. I did not know until I got there that I would be the only one in attendance who (1) was attending the Film Festival for the first time and (2) did not know anyone else there. If I had known, I might have been more nervous. The group turned out to be friendly, and I am so glad I went.

First, a note on the restaurant. The dinner was held at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant located across the street from the Enzian Theater. I had been to the restaurant before, but it has been several years since I was last there. Buca di Beppo is a chain restaurant with locations in 28 states, England, and Mexico. Florida is second in number of locations, with California coming in first place. Many states only have 1 location. Dishes come in two sizes and are served family-style. The small size is intended to serve two people and large is intended to serve four. Some of the people at the event buddied up to share an entree. Since I am vegetarian and only a couple entrees on the the menu were vegetarian, I was on my own. I ordered the eggplant parmesan and it was quite delicious, even though it was cut length-wise rather than in rounds and the skin was not removed.

Twenty-five people attended the dinner, but I only met about 1/2 of them as I arrived right around the time the waitress was seating our group and I was toward the end of the one long table. I did pick up interesting information and tips about attending the Festival, which was the main reason I wanted to go to the dinner.

I haven’t written about the ticket and pass options for attending the Festival, and one of the most interesting things I learned is related to choosing a pass. Tickets are sold individually for each film, but ticket vouchers can also be purchased in packages of 5 ($50), 10 ($95), and 20 ($180). Vouchers are exchanged for specific film screenings; you can’t just show up with a voucher. The voucher package prices are a discount over buying individual tickets. Passes come in three flavors: Matinee ($99), Cinephile ($450), and Platinum ($800).

I originally bought a Matinee pass and a 10-ticket voucher package. The Matinee pass would get me into any film before 5 pm, and I figured I’d go to all of those and then use the vouchers for a few films in the evening. A week before the Preview Party, I changed my mind. I returned the Matinee pass and voucher package and bought a Cinephile pass. This pass gives me first entry into all films with priority line, admission to the Opening Night Film, and admittance to the Filmaker Lounge and Bar. The Platinum pass is an all access pass to all events and films.

I learned last night that the Platinum pass also gives access to Pre-Festival Press Screenings. The Film Festival’s website does list this as a Platinum Pass perk, but I did not understand what it meant. For 2 – 3 weeks before the Festival officially starts, the Enzian screens a couple films a day just for the Press and Platinum Pass holders. The screenings are held during the day, so those working full-time days are not able to attend. But those who are able to attend will see 15 or more movies before the Festival even begins! This seems like a fantastic perk to me, as I’m still struggling with my viewing schedule. The price of the Cinephile Pass stretched our budget as it was, so I would not have sprung for a Platinume Pass this year. Now I have time to plan for next year!

Since people at last night’s dinner have already attended films, I was able to hear their opinions on what they liked or didn’t like about a half dozen or so of the Festival Films. This confirmed some of my intial thoughts on what I would like and helped me decide about a couple of films I was on the fence about seeing. I’ll talk about that more in the posts where I discuss which movies I will and won’t be seeing.

I asked how many Passholders there are each year. The main reason I bought a Pass rather than sticking with my original plan was so I could have that first entrance privilege. I was concerned that all the seating might go to Passholders, with no space left for anyone else! This year there are 67 Passholders. I’m not sure if that includes only Platinum Passholders or if it is both Cinephile and Platinum Passes. I would have been able to get into any film, as long as I got there early enough, even if I did not buy a pass. I’m still glad I got a pass. Because I have it, I’ll be going to a lot more films, and have a fuller experience of the Festival than if I hadn’t bought it.

I also got an answer to one of my questions: How much of a buffer do I need between films. Here, there’s another piece of relevant information that I haven’t shared in prior posts. The Enzian Theater which is the official host of the Florida Film Festival only has one screen. During the Festival, a Regal Cinema that is a couple miles away from the Enzian devotes two screens to Festival films. I knew that if I was driving between the Enzian and the Regal, I need to account for the transit time. I’m trying to arrange my schedule so that I spend entire days in one location or the other, but that isn’t possible on all days. But if I’m at the Regal, how much time do I really need if I’m in Theatre A and my next film is in Theatre B? Answer: Not a whole lot. The two are next door to each other. Passholders and other new friends will save seats for each other so you don’t have to worry about a show selling out before you can get in the door. Awesome!

I had a fantastic time at the dinner, and I’m glad to have met a few people that I might recognize and hang out with during the Festival itself!

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