Listen to Austin 360 Radio

What you need to know about attending SXSW Film Festival 2022

Eric Webb
Austin 360

You've heard about the big films that have premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival, like Jordan Peele's "Us" and Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs," and you're ready to join the fun. Or, perhaps you're like us, and it's been two years since you've been to an in-person SXSW (thanks for nothing, pandemic) and you need a little refresher. 

SXSW Film Festival runs March 11-19, and it promises to bring both stars and undiscovered cinematic voices to Austin. Here's a quick primer on how to do the fest and catch all of those wonderful movies.

What are the venues for SXSW Film Festival?

As always, SXSW has spread its screenings across several theaters — most downtown (like the Paramount Theatre) or close to downtown (Zach Theatre, for example). There's even a farther-flung satellite venue, AFS Cinema, away from the fray. (This is the first SXSW since Alamo Drafthouse closed its Ritz theater on Sixth Street, so don't show up there.)

Actor Paul Rudd has his photo taken with fans and signs autographs near the "Prince Avalanche" red carpet during South by Southwest Film Festival in 2013 at the Paramount Theatre.

Catch films at:

  • Paramount Theatre (713 Congress Ave.)
  • Stateside at the Paramount (719 Congress Ave.)
  • SXSW Film Theater at Austin Convention Center (500 E. Cesar Chavez St.)
  • Violet Crown Cinema (434 W. Second St.)
  • Rollins Theatre at the Long Center (701 W. Riverside Drive)
  • Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar Blvd.)
  • Zach Theatre (202 S. Lamar Blvd.)
  • AFS Cinema (6259 Middle Fiskville Road)

How do online screenings work at SXSW Film Festival?

Yes, this is still a hybrid event, even though the organizers are emphasizing the return to in-person festivities.

Per SXSW's film programmers, films with online screening options are noted on the official schedule. (Nope, it's not all of them — you can't catch that new Sandra Bullock comedy on the couch.)

If there's an online screening option, then the movie will go online at 9 a.m. the morning after its in-person premiere, and then be available for 48 hours. Except for the shorts programs; those are available to view through the duration of the fest.

More:For big Austin return, SXSW Film reveals Richard Linklater, Sandra Bullock, 'Atlanta,' more

Some online films have limited audience space. The virtual option is open to all SXSW badge-holders.

You can watch online films via the SXSW schedule, the SXSW Go mobile app or on the SXSW TV App (available for Apple TV, Android TV, Fire TV, Roku, iOS via Airplay and Android mobile with Chromecast).

Caitlin Ward introduces the documentary "Feels Good Man" at the Violet Crown Cinema on March 14, 2020. The film had been slated to premiere at SXSW, but after the fest was canceled because of the pandemic, a smaller premiere took its place at Violet Crown.

What's the difference between a SXSW badge, wristband and ticket?

The badges are the top of the line for admission to films. SXSW Platinum and Film badges receive primary access. Music and Interactive badges receive secondary access to films. All badges cost more than a grand (a platinum badge is $1725), and prices go up for walk-up purchases.

So. What's a more affordable option?

Film wristbands went on sale for locals in February. They're not on sale right now unless you already received a coupon code, according to the fest's website. If you've scored one, it offers secondary access to film screenings. Due to crowd capacity, the festival recommends the Paramount Theatre, AFS Cinema, Zach Theatre and the Convention Center venues as your best bets for actually getting in the door. You can subscribe for wristband sale notifications and find more info at wristbands.sxsw.com/film.

Finally: There are the single ticket sales. For $20 a pop, you can catch one of the festival's flicks if there are seats leftover after all of those badge-y, wristband-y people get in. Tickets for SXSW films are usually sold at the venues 15 minutes before the start of a screening, capacity permitting. Some venues are running advance ticket sales through their websites, programmers say, like Zach Theatre and AFS Cinema.

So I do have to wait in line at SXSW Film Festival?

That's right. This is SXSW. It's been a while for us, too, no worries. If you really want to see a film, show up early, make sure you get a queue card, and stay in line. Crews working the lines should be able to help you figure out if it's worth the wait for that particular theater's capacity, or if you should bail. 

More:Austin festival SXSW condemns Gov. Greg Abbott order to treat transgender care as child abuse

Usually, the SXSW Go mobile app contains event status meters for each event, letting you know how full a screening, showcase or session is.

What's the deal with SXXpress Passes?

SXXpress passes allow registrants with badges to request priority access to individual film festival screenings and other programming. The number of passes allotted each day typically varies by badge type. Each SXSW event is allocated a limited number of SXXpress passes, usually requested by fest-goers starting at 9 a.m. the day before the event. The passes are digital and requested through the app or the online schedule. Get the most up-to-date details at the SXSW website.

Lupita Nyong’o attends the premiere of "Us" at the Paramount Theatre during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

What if I miss a movie?

Try not to fret. Crowds tend to thin out as the week goes on, and most movies show more than once and at multiple venues, except for those big, shiny headliners. 

A couple last reminders about COVID and bags

All credentialed SXSW participants will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19. Masks are strongly encouraged and required for some SXSW programming.

"All credentialed SXSW participants should be prepared to follow Film and Music Festival venue entry requirements which may at times differ from SXSW’s. Full guidance on venue policies coming soon," a note on the SXSW COVID-19 policy page reads.

And a special note so you don't get tripped up: The Paramount Theatre has a special bag policy. Your bag either has to be clear (and 14 inches by a foot by 6 inches in size) or no bigger than a small clutch. Official SXSW tote bags will be exempt, per the festival. Check their website for more info.