If you're a studio hoping your film has a shot during awards season, chances are you've already premiered the movie to an elite audience by now. With
While most distributors try to create buzz well before the holiday season, a few opt for a different tack: opening a movie at
At least that's how
"This year is a very hard one — there are so many amazing movies that came out of Toronto and Telluride that it's hard to get your bearings and cut through," said Brenner, Relativity's president of production. "Playing at AFI was always something that was very much at the top of the list, because you have a nice pause after some of the other festivals and everybody's taken a little bit of a breath."
"Out of the Furnace," a gritty thriller out Dec. 6 starring
Even if Brenner is coy about Relativity's award hopes for the film, the independent studio has been down this road before: In 2010, it launched
Meanwhile, all of this strategizing couldn't be further from mind for festival organizers, who have programmed 119 films from 43 countries into this year's schedule. AFI Fest, which last year welcomed 75,000 guests, is one of the only major film festivals to offer free tickets to its screenings.
"Giving free tickets to the public to see this caliber of film is quite rare," said festival director Jacqueline Lyanga. "It enables us as programmers to work with a mix of films that have broad appeal and ones that are more challenging, where an audience member doesn't feel like they have to take a chance with their pocketbook to experience a film."
Of course, many fans are eager to snap up tickets to AFI Fest's starry galas, where
But Lyanga and Lane Kneedler, the festival's head of programming, encourage those coming out for the event's more commercial offerings to check out less well-known fare as well. For those looking for an under-the-radar gem, Kneedler suggests
The organizers are also particularly proud of the festival's world cinema section, which will spotlight 15 films that are eligible for the foreign-language Oscar including the Dutch black comedy "Borgman" and Israel's "Bethlehem." Agnes Varda, the 85-year-old pioneering French new wave filmmaker, is also serving as the festival's guest director and will present four of her favorite films.
"The festival allows us to extend a feeling of community to people in Los Angeles who don't work in the film industry and can't go to exclusive events," said Lyanga. "But during the festival, you look on the escalator at Hollywood & Highland and you see an agent talking to someone who works in education. It's that feeling you miss in a city that relies less heavily on public transportation."
Though the festival takes place at a number of venues off Hollywood Boulevard — the Chinese 6 inside the shopping mall complex, the Egyptian Theatre, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel — the biggest screenings occur at the TCL Chinese Theatre. The historic venue — long known to Angelenos as Grauman's — this year underwent a $5-million renovation, adding an Imax screen and plush seating.
"I'm excited — I can't wait to see how they've revamped the place," said filmmaker Berg, whose inspirational "Lone Survivor" has in recent weeks quietly been screening for a number of football teams. "I think it'll be a great screen for us to play to a big Hollywood audience."
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article stated that the film "Out of the Furnace" would be released Nov. 27. Its release date is Dec. 6.
When: Thursday-Nov. 14
Where: Hollywood venues including TCL Chinese Theatre, Egyptian Theatre and Chinese 6 Theatres
Ticket pick up: Hollywood & Highland Center, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 223, 10 a.m.-10: p.m.