Frequently Asked Questions

What are the dates of the upcoming festivals?  Confirmed dates are July 28 – August 2, 2020.

Where is Traverse City? Traverse City is located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula in the resort region on Grand Traverse Bay.

How do I submit a film? The Traverse City Film Festival is by invitation only, but we’d love to see your films and suggestions. Read more on our submissions page.

I’d like to help. How can I get involved? Volunteers are the foundation of the Traverse City Film Festival. Sign up online now by filling out an application for the festival. Leadership positions are available.

Can I contribute to the festival in other ways? Yes! Sponsorships are available in at a variety of levels and benefits. Friends memberships also support the festival in a big way and Friends receive great perks like early ticketing and access to our Friends Only Screening Parties.

How can I stay informed about the festival all year round? Patrons can sign up to receive festival news alerts by email. Sign up here.

Where are the festival movies shown? The festival screens movies in Downtown Traverse City at several venues: State Theatre, Old Town Playhouse, The Kubrick at Central Grade, City Opera House, Milliken Auditorium, Bijou by the Bay, Central High School Auditorium, and the Open Space Outdoor Cinema on the waterfront.

What kinds of films are shown? The festival shows approximately 250 films each year ranging from documentary and fiction, U.S. and Foreign, feature length, and shorts. We have movies for kids, movies for tweens, all-time favorite classics and blockbusters on the big screen at the Open Space, movies for cinephiles, romances, comedies, drama, adventure, action, mysteries, and more! There’s something for everyone.

When will the schedule be announced? The schedule for the 2020 festival will be released in late June. Visit our timeline for other important festival dates.

How can I get tickets? Tickets can be purchased both online and at the main box office in advance of the festival. And during the festival, tickets are also available at each individual indoor venue. Find more info on ticketing, including sales dates, here.

Where can I pick up my tickets? If you ordered online or over the phone, you can pick up your tickets at the Main Festival Box Office prior to the start of the festival. Once the festival has started, tickets may be picked up at either the Main Festival Box Office or at of our individual indoor venue box offices. Every indoor movie venue has a fully-functioning box office.

What is a standby line? If a show is listed as “Stand By Line Only,” a standby ticket line will form one hour before the screening. So even if you hear that a show is sold out, our experience tells us that seats will open up.

What’s a voucher and how can I use it?  Vouchers cost $15 and are good for any regularly priced movie at the TCFF. Voucher holders can present their voucher at a box office and exchange it for a ticket to any regularly priced film, if that film is not sold out. They also can get in the standby line for a show without any available tickets, and wait to see if seats become available. Voucher holders go to the front of the standby line. Vouchers do not expire at the end of the festival, they are good for two years. Vouchers purchased at the 2019 festival will be honored in 2020, and vouchers purchased in 2020 will be honored through 2021. 

How can I learn more about filmmaking? The Traverse City Film Festival features a film school, with classes held, twice daily. Classes, held at Scholars Hall at Northwestern Michigan College, are taught by industry experts.

Are there any free movies at the festival? Each night of the festival, classic films are shown on the waterfront in the city’s Open Space Park on a giant inflatable screen. No admission is charged. Seating is general admission, so be sure to bring chairs and blankets. For more information about how to attend the festival on a budget, click here.

Are dogs allowed at the Open Space movies? Dogs are not allowed at the Open Space Outdoor Cinema. While we encourage you to bring blankets, chairs, and coolers, please leave your four-legged friends at home.

What other programming is at the festival beside films? We have a robust music scene at the festival including performances before many screenings, at parties, and more. Visitors can enjoy our free industry panels, take a $5 film school class, enjoy our kids fest, attend official festival parties and after parties.

Is the festival accessible? Yes, for more information on accessibility and accommodation requests please visit here.

Where can I park? We recommend parking in the NMC Cherry Lot on the east side or the Thirlby Field on the west and using our free, green, and easy shuttle loop to get downtown without worry or cost. For more info on parking downtown, visit our How To Festival page.

Can I bring my kids? The festival has many activities for children and families including our free kids fest before select Open Space screenings, $1 kids movies, and our free movies at the Open Space. We also designate certain films in our #tween section as appropriate for PG and PG-13 audiences.

Are films in the festival rated? Most films at the festival have not been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Ratings are listed when applicable. Please read the film descriptions, do your own research on sites like Common Sense Media, and choose responsibly.

I’m a musician. How can I become one of your performers? Awesome! Simply visit our music page to review all the info about being a TCFF musician, complete a brief application, and we’ll be in touch.

How is the festival financially supported? The festival is funded by local and national businesses, community groups, and individuals. Sponsors are needed for each venue, film, filmmaker, and event. If you would like to contribute, please contact us at The Traverse City Film Festival is a 501(c)3  non-profit organization with tax-exempt status.

Who created the festival? The Traverse City Film Festival was founded by Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore in collaboration with photographer John Robert Williams and author Doug Stanton. Festival board members include filmmakers Larry Charles (“Borat”), Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”), actor Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”), actress Christine Lahti (“Chicago Hope”), producer Rod Birleson (“Capitalism: A Love Story”), musician Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), and filmmaker Mark Cousins (“The Story of Film: An Odyssey”).

Are there any year-round festival activities? The Traverse City Film Festival operates two year-round movie houses, the historic State Theatre, and the Bijou by Bay, in downtown Traverse City. Visit the State and Bijou website for complete information and a schedule of upcoming screenings.

If I have more questions, how can I contact someone at the festival? We can be reached by phone at the festival office at 231-392-1134, via email at or via mail at: PO Box 4064, Traverse City, MI 49685.