TRAVERSE CITY — Ten days to go and counting. You can almost smell the popcorn.
Ticket sales for the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival start Saturday morning for the general public.
As of Wednesday, 52 movies — a third of the 150 films and documentaries offered — had sold out due to early sales last week to Friends of the Traverse City Film Festival. But “thousands of tickets remain,” said Linda Koebert, now in her third year as festival volunteer box office manager.
“No one should ever think they could come to the festival and not get in,” she said. “We have sold 40,000 tickets and we have over 125,000 tickets left to sell.”
Koebert said tickets will be released Saturday for 12 new free movies, plus the 12 TBA (to-be-announced) slots in the movie guide will be filled with added screenings of early sellouts. The added screenings will be announced in the next week to 10 days.
Among the sellouts were the opening, centerpiece and closing night films — “Blue Jasmine,” “Shoot Me” and “Austenland.”
Other films sold out by Wednesday included “Before Snowfall” and “The English Teacher” and several screenings at the Bijou, the newest venue in the former Con Foster Museum, which is being renovated into a movie theater.
“The Bijou has been enormously popular and the film festival will be the first time anyone gets to see it inside,” said Katy Gwizdala, festival communications director.
Hedges Macdonald, an avid Traverse City film and theater fan, decided to wait until Tuesday to buy his tickets rather than wait in long lines after sales to Friends began Sunday morning. He wasn’t disappointed that the more expensive opening, closing and centerpiece movies had sold out. He bought tickets to 10 other movies and threw in a festival T-shirt.
“I decided to limit myself to about three films a day, though some days I do have four,” he said, adding that he may select more before the festival begins.
The festival — co-founded by filmmaker Michael Moore and put on with the help of some 1500 volunteers — is a first for Judy Drinian, a Traverse City summer resident from Bradenton, Fla. She was hoping to get tickets to seven or eight films. She had also signed up to be a volunteer and already had been assigned to two shifts at the Old Town Playhouse during festival week.
The biggest “new” pre-festival event is the 184-seat Bijou Grand Debut, a $500-a-ticket fundraiser scheduled at Clinch Park on the eve of the film festival. The July 29 debut begins at 8 p.m. with a sneak preview of an as-yet-unnamed upcoming Hollywood hit, followed by an after party at the new plaza patio in Clinch Park.
Opening night is Tuesday, July 30, with the screening of “Blue Jasmine,” Woody Allen’s latest movie, at 6 p.m. at the State and 7:30 p.m. at the City Opera House. “Across the Universe” is the free opening night film shown on the 65-foot-tall outdoor screen at the Open Space, which will host a free screening every night at dusk. Also on opening night: a $50-per-person kick-off party from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Front Street between Park and Cass.
Among special guests this year are British filmmaker Michael Apted, director of 56 Up, and Elaine Stritch, one of America’s Broadway legends, said festival co-founder Michael Moore. Stritch is the focus of the centerpiece screening of “Shoot Me” at 6 p.m. at the State Theatre. The documentary follows the 87-year-old Emmy and Tony-winning performer as she preps for and sets out her latest club tour to prove that she can still put on a great show.
Apted is a filmmaker, director, producer, writer and actor whose movie, “56 Up,” the sixth of his 7 Up series that started in 1964 when film crews followed a group of British children from variety of backgrounds every seven years. Each of the previous installments are part of the festival’s “free screenings” scheduled from 3 p.m. Friday through 3 p.m. Saturday at the Dutmers Theater in the Dennos Museum at Northwestern Michigan College. ‘56 Up, slated for 6 p.m. Saturday at the State, is not free.
Making a return are popular film fest events Kids Fest, Film School, Film Panel discussions — two evening panels will complement the traditional morning lineup — and Cinema Salon discussions.
A new festival highlight this year is a “newbie” program for first-timers. It will be rolled out later as festival-goers arrive, Gwidzala said.
The film festival runs through Aug. 4. General admission tickets can be purchased in person at the film festival box office located on the second floor of 128 S. Union St. above 7 Monks taproom, or by calling 231-929-FILM (3456). Online sales will start at 6 p.m. Saturday. A lounge has been set up at the box office with a large screen TV that will play trailers to help acquaint ticket buyers with films.
Box office hours through June 27 are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday , 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Hours will be extended to 9 p.m. on July 28 and 29.