- Held annually in early October, lasts for 10 days
- Films are shown at movie theaters in Mill Valley and San Rafael
- Mill Valley Film Festival website
The festival makes use of screens in Mill Valley, Corte Madera, Larkspur and San Rafael. So many of the films are shown at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael that you might think it should be called the San Rafael Film Festival.
Even on a Wednesday night, we found some showings filled to capacity. Buy tickets in advance to be sure you can get in.
- When planning your film selections, be aware of which theatre they're being shown in. Allow at least 30 minutes to drive between downtown Mill Valley and downtown San Rafael, find parking and walk to the theatre.
- Parking in downtown Mill Valley can be vexing even on a weekday afternoon. Parking meters are everywhere, most have a two-hour limit and no prepay stations. Bring coins.
- Downtown San Rafael has several parking garages near the theatre, with reasonable rates and validation.
- You'll find plenty of places to get a bite to eat within walking distance of the theatres in both towns.
Likes and Dislikes:
The Mill Valley Film Festival is popular with cinephiles of all kinds and includes a children's film festival.
You can see a few films that will be shown in mainstream theatres, but many are independent and foreign films. Don't go if you're looking for box office blockbusters.
We rate it 4 stars out of 5 for a wide variety of films that include world and local premieres.
How to Get There:
Mill Valley, Corte Madera and San Rafael are north of San Francisco in Marin County. All of the theatres are within a short drive of US Hwy 101.
Tickets and Reservations:
Buy passes and advance tickets online through the Mill Valley Film Festival website or by calling 877-874-6833 or 415-256-8499. You can print at home or pick up at will call. California Film Institute members get special discounts and admission to members-only screenings.
Prices are about the same as (or a little less than) what you would pay at your local cineplex for an evening showing.
The Mill Valley Film Festival is one of the San Francisco area's longest-running (since 1978). During a ten-day run, it screens over 200 films, with as many as 30 shown in a single day. The offerings include foreign films from countries as diverse as Morocco, China and Eastern Europe, short films by local filmmakers, documentaries, activist films. They also screen a few films which are scheduled to open in wider distribution shortly after the festival, giving people an opportunity to see them first.
Besides the films, the festival also offers film making workshops and they offer a fun Children's FilmFest with special activities on opening and closing days.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of reviewing this event. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.