All Together Now: Back to the Big Screen

For the first time since COVID sank its spikey teeth into gatherings great and small, the TCM Classic Film Festival returns to Hollywood Boulevard for four days of essentials, discoveries, and anniversary screenings. The governing theme this year is, fittingly, “All Together Now: Back to the Big Screen,” celebrating the shared experience of images from the past flickering once more on screens bigger than anything your home can handle. “There’s nothing like being in a theater enjoying the movies the way they were meant to be seen—on the big screen,” Pola Changnon, TCM general manager, said in a press release.

Though TCM hasn’t hosted an in-person festival since the 10th TCMFF in 2019, they are christening this year the 13th iteration of their signature event (making the 2020 and 2021’s at-home editions the 11th and 12th festivals, respectively). And despite the loss of one of TCMFF’s signature venues—the Grauman’s Egyptian is currently under renovation*—the festival will proceed as usual with plenty of special introductions from TCM hosts, special guests, and those connected with either the production of or a deep love for the films screening. Things, as they say, are beginning to feel normal.

The festival opens proper on Thursday, April 21, with a 40th-anniversary screening of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, featuring a discussion between director Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and actors Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Henry Thomas, and Dee Wallace preceding the film. And E.T. won’t be the only time Spielberg will be on hand for a pre-screening discussion: he’ll be back the following night, April 22, to introduce George Stevens’ 1956 western epic, Giant, newly restored by Warner Bros. in partnership with The Film Foundation.

“Anything that presumes to call itself Giant better have the goods to keep such a lofty promise,” Spielberg said in a statement provided by TCM. “Both Edna Ferber and George Stevens far exceeded the title to bring such an epic American story to the big screen, and I’m proud to have been a small part of the restoration team of this classic motion picture.”

Giant is one of three titles screening at TCMFF restored in partnership with The Film Foundation. The other two are Force of Evil (April 23), a 1948 noir (one of the best from the cycle), and the 1964 comedic heist Topkapi (April 21). It’s also worth noting that Topkapi was a photochemical restoration, a rarity these days, in collaboration with MGM and will unspool on 35 mm with Grover Crisp, manager of restoration and preservation at Columbia and TriStar Pictures, in person.

Topkapi is one of 19 titles screening under the Discoveries sidebar, one of TCMFF’s 11 themes. The others: Back From Battle, Class Reunions, Reunited in Time, Second Time Around, Wait Till Your Father Finally Gets Home, in addition to the usual Essentials, Festival Tributes, Midnight Movies, Special Presentations, and Poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt.

In all, 81 titles will flicker across screenings April 21-24 inside the TCL Chinese Theatre, The Hollywood Legion at Post 43, El Capitan, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Eighty-one chances to step into the past and find premonitions of the present. A glorious weekend awaits.

*Additionally, the adjacent Pig’ n Whistle, originally built in 1927, was closed to dine-in service at the outset of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak and closed permanently not long after. In 2021, it was reported to be gutted and undergoing extensive renovations and rebranding. The Pig was the Egyptian’s de facto watering hole and had one of the best happy hours on the boulevard.