Planning a Film Event: Film Screening Checklist #1

    With the Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals having just finished, film festival season is in full swing. For those of you planning film events, especially film screenings, you probably already know how much planning goes into them to ensure films actually get screened successfully. But if you've never put on a film event before, and you're unsure of how to go about it, here is a checklist for planning your next film screening to ensure your film event is a success.

    Get the rights.

    If you are planning a large film screening, such as in a community park or movie theater, you will need to get the rights to play the movie. This is very important because if the distribution company finds out about your screening, there are many legal issues that can pop up. Fees may also apply and they vary depending on your screening and how many people will be in attendance. You can learn more about getting the rights to screen the movie at the Motion Picture Association of America.

    Secure the location.

    Securing an event venue is the first step to planning a successful film screening. When it comes to events, you have a few different options. If you are planning on screening the film in front of a large audience, you may want to consider hosting the screening at a local movie theater. If you are looking for a small and intimate setting, you can rent a venue that either has a projector or a small screening room. Once you secure the location, you can then start finalizing the invite list and invitations.

    Guest/RSVP List

    If you're hosting a nighttime screening in the park, where your guests will find a nice spot on the grass and enjoy a wonderful picnic while watching the movie, then you may not need to worry about capacity. However, if you are hosting the film screening in a theater or in a small venue, you will need to carefully cultivate a guest list to make sure you do not go over capacity. Be prepared and have your guest list in tiers, so once you send out your first round of invitations and receive your responses, you will be able to send out your next round, based on how many spots you have left.


    Unless your film screening is extremely formal, using an electronic invitation will work just fine in this situation. Be sure to have two separate times on the invitation: when the doors open and when the screening starts. This will ensure that people will get to the screening on time since they know exactly when the movie starts. If your screening isn't an event where tickets have to be purchased and you have a cap on the amount of people that are allowed inside your venue, then you also need to be very specific on whether or not your invitees will receive a plus one or not. Most people will want to be bring a guest with them so be sure to accommodate for that early on in the planning process.

    Book a Panel (or other entertainment).

    If you are hosting a large film screening and wish to have a panel, such as the filmmakers, experts on the topic (if it is a documentary), actors, and more, then you would need to reach out and book your panel very early in advance.  If your screening is a lot more casual, consider booking a small band or DJ to play before and after the screening or serving refreshments.


    Movies pair well with snacks. You can have a small refreshments table with finger foods, sodas, beers (if your venue allows) and whatever other food and beverages you prefer. If your guest list is large or you are hosting a community screening at a local park, you can also consider contacting a few food trucks to dish out some food prior to the screening. Food trucks are always fun and easy and give people a lot of variety to choose from.

    Audio/Visual Needs

    Of course, with any screening, technology plays an important factor. Be sure to make a list of all the audio and visual needs your screening will require. For example, if you plan on projecting the movie instead of playing it on a television, then you will obviously need a projector and a screen. You will also need a surge protector, extension cord, speakers, and any other cords that are necessary to connect the movie to the screen and to the sound, be it film or digital.

    Have you planned a film screening before? What else would be on your planning checklist? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.