There are some hallmarks that cinephiles expect when they attend a film festival. There should be some sort of special moment like a red carpet gala, opportunities to watch an Oscar-worthy film immediately followed by the actors and directors discussing it, and, of course, tons of films so you can stand in line and talk to other film-lovers before the screening starts.

Check. Check. And check. The Palm Springs International Film Festival, which will host its 35th celebration of cinema from January 4-15, ticks all those boxes and that’s why it’s beloved by locals and out-of-town movie buffs alike. The weather doesn’t hurt the cause either as the average temperature in Palm Springs in January is 71 degrees.

The fest will screen 179 films from 74 countries including 40 that are international feature film Oscar submissions. Are you attending this year? Here is everything you need to know.


Star-studded gala

Cate Blanchett stands at a podium and Jamie Lee Curtis watches from the side during the PSIFF Gala in 2023.The film festival kicks off Thursday, January 4 with the traditional red carpet gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center, honoring some of the best actors and film makers of the year with a black-tie affair.

Desert film fans can live out their dreams of attending the Oscars with a very real simulation as the night includes a fancy dinner, an opportunity to dress to the nines and a chance to hear celebrity presenters and winners give that emotional or funny or poignant speech.

This year’s list of honorees include:

• Carey Mulligan for the International Star Award, Actress for her role in “Maestro”

• Cillian Murphy for the Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor for his role in “Oppenheimer”

• Colman Domingo for the Spotlight Award, Actor for his role in “Rustin”

• Da’Vine Joy Randolph for the Breakthrough Performance Award for her role in “The Holdovers”

• Emma Stone for the Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress for her role in “Poor Things”

• Greta Gerwig for Director of the Year for the hit film “Barbie”

• Jeffrey Wright for Career Achievement Award on the heels of his acclaimed new film “American Fiction”

• Danielle Brooks for the Spotlight Award for her work in the reimagining of “The Color Purple”

• The cast of “Killers of the Flower Moon” for the Vanguard Award which goes to a film’s cast and director. Director Martin Scorsese and lead actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone will be in attendance.

• Billie Eilish & Finneas O'Connell for 'What Was I Made For' from "Barbie'. 

A general admission ticket to the gala costs $350, but what some fans do is stand across the street from the red carpet for free to at least get a glimpse of their favorite stars. Sometimes they come over and sign autographs or take a selfie. 


On the schedule

A scene from the PSIFF 2024 opening night movie "Wicked Little Letters" starring Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley.

The festival will show 179 films from 74 different countries, so everyone should be able to find something they like, but here are some of the highlights.

The opening night screening will be the U.S. premiere of the film “Wicked Little Letters” to be shown on Friday, January 5 at Palm Springs High School. The film is directed by Thea Sharock and stars Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley portraying neighbors in a movie based on a true scandal that shook the small town of Littlehampton in 1920s England.

The closing night screening on Saturday, January 13 is the film “Ex-Husbands” directed by Noah Pritzker. Actors Griffin Dunne and Miles Heizer are expected to be in attendance with Pritzker to discuss the film which is a comedy about a man still stinging from a divorce and the death of his father who takes off to Tulum where his sons happen to be for a bachelor party.

Between those bookends are a plethora of world premieres and the always popular “Talking Pictures” opportunities where one of the film’s stars or director is on hand to dish about the movie and how it all came together.

The Talking Pictures programs that have been announced so far include: “Barbie” with director Greta Gerwig on hand to discuss the film; “American Fiction” with actor Jeffrey Wright; “Killers of the Flower Moon” with screenwriter Eric Roth: “Maestro” with star Carey Mulligan.

Other films featuring familiar faces that will come along to chat about their movie are “Blackberry” with star Glenn Howerton, “Fresh Kills” with director Jennifer Esposito and “The Performance” with actor Jeremy Piven.

A world premiere not to miss, especially for cinephiles, is the film “A Look Through His Lens” about Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot.

Two films that fall in the category of local spotlight films are “Amongst the Trees” and “The Green Desert.” “Amongst the Trees” directed by Trent Ubben and Jack Jensen is a dramatic look at the basketball team at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, and “The Green Desert” directed by Leo Zahn is about the dwindling Colorado River and how it is impacting farming in Greater Palm Springs.


A little something different

If you are a PSIFF veteran, here are some new events specific to this year’s festival:

• This year the international film festival is focusing on the films of South Korean cinema, not only by showing films from the current festival circuit from South Korea but also revered classic like “Cobweb,” “Memories of a Murder” and “Train to Busan.” “Train to Busan” is a personal favorite as a fan of all kinds of zombie movies.

• With this being the 35th anniversary, the festival is also giving a nod to the year 1990 with flashback screenings of popular films from that year including “Goodfellas,” “Paris is Burning” and “Wild at Heart” with those films being introduced by TCM’s Dave Karger.

• Filmmaker James Ivory will be celebrated with a selection of his films including “Howards End,” “Maurice” and “Shakespeare Wallah”

• Saturday, January 13 will be a family day with screenings that include “Flamin’ Hot” with director Eva Longoria in attendance as well “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” and “Dancing Queen.”


Tickets and tips

You can find tickets, show times and schedules at the official website which is General admission price for a regular film is $15, there’s a reduced price if you are a member of the Palm Springs International Film Society (something to look into, for sure, if you’re a frequent movie-goer in the desert).

Just like flying standby, seeing a film fest movie on standby can be a smooth move. If your favorite film is sold out, you wait in the standby line and 10 minutes before show time tickets will become available if all the ticket-buyers and passholders have not shown up to claim their seats. Score! It’s very rare that every single ticket-purchaser shows up for a soldout show, so in almost every case, at least a few people waiting in the standby line are rewarded.

The screenings are held at several locations in Palm Springs: The Annenberg Theater, Camelot Theatres (also called Palm Springs Cultural Center), Palm Canyon Theatre, Palm Springs High School and Regal Cinemas, and also Mary Pickford is D’place in Cathedral City.


Where to stay

Hilton Palm Springs

The host hotel is the Hilton Palm Springs which is within walking distance of most of the screening venues, the festival store and is home base for the guest and industry lounge. It also includes a complimentary shuttle to and from Palm Springs International Airport.

Other nearby options include The Rowan Palm Springs, Saguaro Palm Springs, Holiday House, Best Western Las Brisas, Alcazar and the Ace Hotel & Swim Club

See below for more places to stay nearby.

The film festival is one of the Greater Palm Springs area's most iconic events, so no matter where you stay and what you watch, you're in for a cinematic treat

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