SXSW 2015 Guides: Pro Tips for 'Wristbandits'


SXSW wristband

As I said in the opening line of my SXSW 2014 dispatch, "The life of a wristbandit can be a lonely one." I'd like to amend that by saying that although it's lonely, it's still just as fun, and often unexpectedly more eventful than a badge. There are obvious differences, of course, but I enjoyed myself immensely while donning a wristband last year. I got to see films, go to some great parties, and made some new friends along the way. With all of that, I would like to share some information that I feel is pertinent to the "wristbandito."

SXSW Film Wristbands are $90 (tax included) and will be sold at Waterloo Records, The Marchesa Theatre, Violet Crown Cinema, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Alamo Ritz and Alamo Slaughter Lane. As a wristband holder, you will be admitted into any SXSW film venue once all badgeholders (Platinum, Gold and Film) have been let into the theater. This is, of course, if space permits.

Below are a few pointers/tips/thoughts that I took away from my adventures. You might think that some of these points are a bit repetitive, but I promise they will be helpful to you when you're trying to navigate the festival.

  • Try to pick up your wristband on Thursday. Last year there was some confusion about where I could get my wristband, but it turns out you CAN pick it up a day early at the Austin Convention Center on March 12 from 9 am - 7 pm at the Vimeo Theater box office outside Exhibit Hall 2. If you can't make it then, try to get to one of the listed venues way before the first film shows.
  • Get in line early! The SXSW website advises at least 30 minutes before showtime, but I say to do your research on a film before you go. Is it a buzzworthy film? One that has celebs or big names in attendance? Get there at least an hour before, or better yet, aim to see it later in the week, if possible. If you know it'll be in theaters (like I knew with The Grand Budapest Hotel last year), I would recommend skipping it all together.
  • Aside from knowing your film, know your venues as well. Your chances of getting into a film are best at the larger venues, as well as any of the venues not immediately downtown. Jette's annual SXSW venue guide will hit Slackerwood tomorrow and includes a lot of valuable and up-to-date info about the theaters.

    Going from largest to smallest (these are the official SXSW counts):

    • Paramount Theatre has 1,100 seats
    • Vimeo Theater (inside the ACC) has 645 seats
    • Topfer Theater at ZACH has 420 seats
    • Stateside has 298 seats
    • Marchesa Theater has 278 seats
    • Alamo Ritz has 240 seats
    • Rollins Theater at the Long Center has 210 seats
    • Alamo South Lamar theaters range from 126-198 seats
    • Violet Crown has 183 seats (all screens combined)
    • Alamo Slaughter has 130 seats

  • That said, aim for the satellite venues, such as Alamo Slaughter and the Marchesa. These should be easygoing, especially in the second half of the festival. Last year, I would often pick a venue and stay there for an evening, particularly if it was an Alamo Drafthouse. I did this last year with the Alamo Village and got to see tons of great docs and local features. (I do have to say how bummed I am that the Alamo Village is not a venue this year. It may be old, but it's still one of my favorite locations.)
  • I know you hear this often, but that's because it's so true: always have a backup plan. And a backup to that plan. And a backup to that plan. I purposely over-scheduled myself so I would have options for films. This works well if you are planning to stay downtown for the day -- there's almost always something to check out. Or, try planting yourself at a satellite venue since your chances of getting in are greater.
  • Smash burgerUse Twitter. Not just for updates from the SXSW team (@sxsw), but also for tips on where the free food is located! There were so many times where my "theater at capacity" blues were made better by a free cheeseburger or tacos.
    I recommend following @SouthByFreeNOMS for the heads-up on where the eats and drinks are located. Free Smash Burger (pictured at right) often made things better for me.
  • On the note of free stuff, check out SXSW's Official Free Events Page. This lists all of the free events happening each day of the fest, including Interactive and Music panels and shows. It's a great way to check out what SXSW is all about, regardless of your credentials.
  • Try to buddy up with a badgeholder. A ball in my court last year was the help of my friend Scott, who was a Film badgeholder. Scott was my eyes and ears in the badge line and theaters, scoping out whether or not he thought I would be able to get into a screening. If you have a "friend on the inside," I recommend teaming up with them.
  • Follow us on Twitter! We'll do our best to keep you in the loop with lines, crowds, freebies and great jokes: @slackerwood

Got any suggestions for wristband holders? Let us know in the comments!

[Photo credit: "SXSW Wristband" by J. Kernion, "Smash Burger photo" by Marcelena Mayhorn, both used with permission.]

Paramount advice

Also, the Paramount is now selling single tickets to a bunch of SXSW screenings. If they're offering tickets, that's a sign they don't think the movie will sell out ... which means wristbanditas have a good chance of getting in.