2021 Guide to SBIFF

2021 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Experience Santa Barbara’s cinematic side during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), March 31 – April 10, 2021, when Oscar contenders and the industry’s best partake in 11 days of film screenings, celebrity tribute events, and panel discussions (sadly, no parties this year). Santa Barbara is no stranger to the film industry, which has deep roots in The American Riviera®, dating back to California’s first major movie studio. Starting in 1910, the American Film Manufacturing Co., also known as “Flying A” Studios, produced nearly a thousand silent films locally. Ever since, Santa Barbara has set the stage for many film and TV productions and cinematic, star-studded events. A world-renowned festival now in its 36th year, SBIFF attracts award-winning filmmakers, actors, writers, students, devoted moviegoers, and locals who simply love the buzz the events bring to town.

The Show Must Go On

For the 2021 edition of the iconic affair that’s earned a reputation as a favorite stop on the Hollywood award season circuit, SBIFF crafted a hybrid festival featuring virtual and in-person events at bespoke drive-in theatres. The online program includes all of the popular celebrity tributes, panel discussions, filmmaker Q&A’s, and over 100 film screenings—meaning the virtual doors to this year’s events will be accessible to so many more people without the limitations of theatre capacity. SBIFF promises a user-friendly digital platform that allows streaming on the device of your choice, be it your mobile phone or your home television screen. Some films will be available only at specific times while others can be seen on-demand throughout the 11-day festival.

Two innovative drive-in theatre locations will be created on the oceanfront campus of Santa Barbara City College (140 Loma Alta Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93101). The festival organizers promise an elaborate, free pop-up outdoor theatre experience which is being presented by Toyota Mirai. Given the sponsor is a state-of-the-art, zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell-powered automobile, it’s fitting the drive-in films will be presented on energy-efficient high resolution LED screens that are visible day and night. You’ll be able to easily tune into the audio through your car’s system, too. Of course, advanced reservations will be required, as well as masks and social distancing anytime filmgoers are outside of their personal vehicles.

Book Your Stay

There’s a Pass for That

There are so many ways to access SBIFF programming this year, whether you’re interested in discovering emerging filmmakers from around the world through online screenings, celebrating your favorite actors’ career in a live-streamed Q&A, or getting your movie fix at a glamorous drive-in. Individual online film tickets start at $10, while tribute and panel events are $15 each.

Bundled passes offer added-value for avid film fans. For $350, the Cinema Pass gives unlimited access to all 100+ online screenings. The $500 Platinum Pass adds access to all online tributes featuring the year’s most prominent film talents as well as the panel discussions. The grandaddy of them all is the Concierge Pass, which guarantees admission to all drive-in screenings and includes a VIP goodie bag. $4,400 of the pass’s total $5,000 price tag is considered a tax-deductible charitable donation, so there’s a feel-good factor to that investment.

Notably, the drive-in film screenings are free of charge. However, tickets are still required, and will be available  on a first-come, first-served basis.  Reservations for each film will become available at 8 a.m. the day before the scheduled showing time. The exception will be Concierge Pass holders, who will have access to an exclusive reserved parking area and won’t need individual drive-in screening tickets. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets today.

See the Stars

One of the major upsides to the virtual format of this year’s fest is it will be even easier to see our favorite filmmakers and actors at SBIFF’s signature celebrity tribute events. And while we’ll miss the excitement of the red carpet arrivals, there won’t be a bad seat in the virtual house when it comes to watching the conversation unfold and enjoying hearing talented performers reflect upon their careers and filmmaking experiences completely unscripted.

The major events that have been announced so far include:

Stay tuned for more event announcements including the panels (women/writers/producers), Variety’s Artisan Award, Outstanding Director Award, and the opening and closing night films.