Toronto TIFF generic Connie Tsang

Source: Connie Tsang

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will launch an official content market concurrent with the festival starting in 2026, in a significant addition to the calendar that could herald profound consequences for the AFM.

The initiative is supported by a three-year C$23m (USD $16.9m) investment by the Canadian federal government and will encompass features, series and immersive and innovative projects. The market will be situated in dedicated spaces within the TIFF footprint in downtown Toronto.

TIFF brass told Screen they anticipate tentpole packages, more screenings, and a works in progress element. While the market will be global in nature, there will be some kind of emerging Canadian talent showcase, and it is expected that the festival’s talent development programmes will be brought under the official market banner.

The initiative formalises an increasingly active commercial element at the festival that has made full and soft sales launches and market screenings a staple in recent years, alongside official delegation booths. TIFF has pointedly highlighted the unofficial market element in its messaging around the festival in recent years.

CEO Cameron Bailey, who flew into Cannes on a whistlestop tour to make the announcement on Thursday, and chief programming officer Anita Lee, said the festival’s unofficial market component would ramp up steadily between now and 2026. Hill said she expected there would be “significant tentpoles” in the market.

The executives pointed out the market will also embrace technology, complementing Canada’s credentials as a vibrant hub in the sector.

Bailey said TIFF wants the current level of approximately 5,000 annual industry delegates to climb to around 12,000 within the first five years or so. TIFF leadership has been under pressure to improve the organisation’s commercial viability, particularly in the wake of Covid. Increased revenue from market badges and participants will be welcome, as is the likelihood that the attractive combination of festival and market could drive new partnerships.

Screen understands it is too soon for TIFF to share revenue projections from the initiative. The organisation is in talks with potential corporate partners and the hope is that over time provincial public bodies and private backers will come on board. An official market designation also unlocks funding opportunities from agencies within Canada and around the world both for TIFF and participating delegations.

In a separate although perhaps not entirely unrelated issue, TIFF is moving ahead with replacing the gap left by last year’s departure of headline sponsor Bell. “We’re in good shape in terms of filling in what Bell represented,” Bailey said.

TIFF’s traditional September slot comes less than two months before AFM, which has navigated choppy waters in recent years. It is relocating to Las Vegas for its next edition in November in what will be a closely watched test run after growing disgruntlement over rising costs in Santa Monica and the spread-out nature of business and screening venues came to a head in a troubled 2023 edition.

That TIFF will evolve into a twin festival-market event is significant. AFM’s lack of alignment with a festival and the glamour and talent access that brings has not worked in its favour. AFM has run concurrently or nearly concurrently with Hollywood-based AFI FEST for many years. There is no official connection between the two and market delegates often bemoaned the time it took to cross town from Santa Monica during rush hour traffic to attend a festival screening.

Since TIFF relocated to downtown in 2010 attendees have been mostly united in their praise of accessibility and the relative proximity of venues.

The 49th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5–15, 2024.