**This date idea is part six of our new series 10 Ways to Change Up Dinner and a Movie. Check back each week for new ideas on changing up an age-old favorite. To receive updates, follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter below.**
If you really want to change up your dinner and a movie routine, make your next date night an event to remember. One excellent way to accomplish this is to go to a film festival. Never-before-seen movies, Hollywood stars, and tons of excitement make for an experience completely different from your average trip to the cinema.
Every year there are hundreds of film festivals--some big, some small--but they all have one thing in common: a passion for new work. Film is an art form, whether you've been recognizing it as one or not, that constantly changes and evolves. These festivals bring creative minds together to celebrate new ideas and expose them to the world.
With a quick search of the internet, you can probably find a film festival near you. Or, you can make a weekend of it and travel to one of the bigger festivals that draw visitors from around the globe, not to mention big-name movie stars.
Every spring Matthew and I check out the Vail Film Festival. They screen feature films, documentaries, shorts, and student films, as well as host panel discussions and workshops. The festival opens and closes with a party where you can mingle with the filmmakers and other movie lovers. Not to mention, they hold a screenwriting contest where the winner earns $10,000.
But that's all small potatoes compared to some of the larger film festivals. Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (founded by Robert Redford and named for one of his favorite roles) is possibly the most well-known film festival in the United States. The films are open to the public and would be a fantastic addition to a ski weekend. However, plan in advance and expect higher prices, since it is so well-known and well-attended. For a lower-key festival that brings in surprisingly well-known filmmakers, and that still gives you a ski-weekend, try the Telluride Film Festival.
Internationally, the most well-known film festival is probably Festival du Cannes in the French Riviera. It is so prestigious an event that, in general, tickets are not open to the public. However, there are public events held throughout the city including free beach screenings and a selection of the year's "classics," as well as films up for recognition but no awards. The Critic's Week and Director's Fortnight also sell some tickets to the public. If you are traveling nearby at the time, it would be a fun time to visit Cannes.
For those who are toe-dipping, just seeing one movie at your local student-film festival would suffice as a new date experience. Plus, they will appreciate the ticket-sales. Whether you are going big or staying close to home, here is how to perfect this date idea:
What's for Dinner?
Look up a trendy restaurant near the theatre where you plan to attend your movie. Make sure to make reservations, since it can be busy during festival weekends.
Which Movie to See?
Check the program to the festival (most likely available online) and pick the one that sounds most appealing to you. The movies at festivals can feel hit-or-miss since they can be more edgy than mainstream movies. When in doubt go with a comedy, and whichever you choose to see, go with an open mind. Different isn't always a bad thing!
A Non-Exhaustive of Popular US Film Festivals:
- Sundance Film Festival - Park City, Utah
- Tribeca Film Festival - New York City, New York
- Telluride Film Festival - Telluride, Colorado
- Ann Arbor Film Festival - Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Atlanta Film Festival - Atlanta, Georgia
- Ashland Independent Film Festival - Ashland, Oregan
- Worldfest - Houston, Texas
- Nashville Film Festival - Nashville, Tennessee
- Seattle International Film Festival - Seattle, Washington
- Chicago International Film Festival - Chicago, Illinois
Film Festival Date
Time: 2+ hours | Cost: $$-$$$ | Location: On the Town | Level: Easy
Change up dinner and a movie with tickets to a screening at a film festival. If you want even more, go to a panel discussion or a workshop. After the movie, pull out our movie questions to connect with your date.
Printable Movie Questions
Film Festival Guide
Tickets or Passes
- Download the free printables below--including the conversation topics--and print. Cut out the pieces (we recommend using a portable paper cutter). Otherwise download it to your tablet or phone.
- Buy your tickets or passes. It's best to do this in advance to ensure you it doesn't sell out. Also look into any discussion panels or workshops you might want to check out.
- Choose a restaurant and make a reservation.
- Go out and have fun! Watch the movie with an open mind, watch the movie, then talk about the questions with your date.
- Share your experience with us and get ready for more great date ideas!