SBIFF gets dinged by some for making it difficult and expensive to see just one film. But the reality — perhaps unfortunately for those critics — is that this is a festival, which are about seeing multiple movies, and those who buy passes are the ones that keep SBIFF afloat and growing. Additionally, waiting in line for an hour only to see your seat go to a pass-holder can be immensely frustrating, yet see above for the same reasoning.
That said, there are strategies for successfully seeing just one film, so here are some tips to do so:
1) Buy the four-pack with friends: There aren’t really single tickets available, so go in with friends on the $55 ticket package, which includes four tickets that can be used in any way you see fit. Just keep in mind that pass-holders enter first.
2) Go to early or late screenings: Both the early morning “breakfast club” screenings in the 8 a.m. timeframe and the very-late-night films in the 10 p.m. and beyond realm tend to have many open seats and less lines.
3) Choose bigger venues: Though lines do form outside of the Lobero and Arlington, they can hold way more people than the small theaters inside Metro 4. That means they are a better bet for getting inside.
4) Watch the TBAs: SBIFF is chock-full of “to be announced” screenings, often at the bigger venues, based on which films rise in popularity. Watch them like a hawk, and find your seat easier.
5) Wait for Third Weekend: Unlike any film fest anywhere, SBIFF spends thousands on hosting a Third Weekend for Santa Barbara residents, featuring completely free screenings of what was popular during the fest proper. This year, it’s Feburary 14-16, and pick up the February 13 edition of The Santa Barbara Independent for a full schedule.