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Film Fest Preview: 7 Insider Tips to Know Before You Go

Madison loves movies and nothing proves it more than the Wisconsin Film Festival. This cinematic showcase, presented by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute in association with the Department of Communication Arts, is an eight-day extravaganza for film buffs of all ages. This year's festival is March 30-April 6—keep reading to learn how to fest the best.


By the Numbers
In 2017, more than 150 films will be shown at six venues across Madison. They range from the intimate 160-seat auditorium at the Chazen Museum of Art to the grand 800-seat Barrymore Theatre on the east side. An estimated 30,000 people will attend throughout the week, making it the largest university-produced film festival in the nation.


Curating the Content
Film programmers from UW Cinematheque search the world for films to include each year. Around 110 to 120 films are chosen and programmers pick films from festivals such as Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. Curators also look for filmmakers or films with Wisconsin ties, which become part of the Wisconsin’s Own category. You can view an archive of past films on the Film Fest website.


Events Before the Event
Movie-lovers love teasers and trailers and the festival's Open Night Celebration kicks off the festival in style. The event features an opening reception with local food and drinks, and a disco party. In-between is the Golden Badger Award Ceremony, which honors Wisconsin filmmakers. This event is March 30 and tickets can be purchased online. 


Fun for All Ages
Though Wisconsin Film Fest films are not rated and parental discretion is advised, there are lots of showings for little ones. The Big Screens, Little Folks program offers feature films and shorts to inspire and delight children, and even the price is small at $5 per ticket. Screenings will take place at Union South’s Marquee Cinema and Sundance Cinemas.


Get the Guide
Before you purchase tickets, plan to grab the Wisconsin Film Festival Guide and Film Checklist, which detail where and when each of the films will be shown. The checklist is a great way to mark how many tickets you’ll need and can help you keep track of the films you’ve seen. The guide can be found in the March 9 issue of Isthmus (Madison’s weekly newspaper) and on the official Film Fest website.


Ticketing Tips
Tickets for the 2017 Wisconsin Film Festival went on sale Saturday, March 11. You can purchase tickets online, by phone at 608.265.2933, or at the official Wisconsin Film Fest box office at Union South on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus. General admission tickets are $10 and just $8 for students, veterans, seniors and UW faculty/staff. Want it all? Ask for a Festival Pass. This $350 pass gives you preferred seating to every film plus all the special events!


Be a Pro Before You Go
If you’re a by-the-day decision-maker, tickets can be purchased during the festival too. Day-of-show tickets are available at every venue one hour before the first film of the day, but only for films shown at that location. Rush tickets are also available 15 minutes before your film begins, but Festival Coordinator Ben Reiser suggests you get there at least 30 minutes before the film starts.

Final tips to make you a pro before you go:

  • Arrive at the venue at least 15 minutes before show time.
  • Please carry a valid ID to verify your tickets belong to you.
  • Don’t lose your tickets! Refunds or replacements cannot be given.
  • Many films are not rated. Viewer and parental discretion is advised.
  • If you’re concerned about mobility, please contact a member of the box office staff when purchasing your tickets
  • Refreshments (including alcoholic beverages) are available at all venues except 4070 Vilas Hall and Chazen Museum of Art.