This year’s Toronto Film Festival is coming to an end, having successfully opened its new C$200m film centre over last weekend, but keeping everybody happy during this year’s event was a tough task.
The Toronto International Film Festival set itself some pretty steep challenges this year. Not only was TIFF presenting its characteristically enormous programme of over 300 films – and over 100 world premieres – to its hungry local audience and large international industry constituency, but it had moved the entire operation to the downtown area of the city for the first time to be near its brand new Bell Lightbox complex, a lavish long-in-the-works centre for the TIFF Group as well as a home for movies in Toronto.
And, while you’ve got the world’s movie media in town, why not choose the first weekend of the festival to open the Lightbox with ceremonies, daytime and evening events and a block party? In the second week of the festival, the Lightbox was up and running and acting as a screening venue for public and press and industry alike.
Did the TIFF Group set itself too great a challenge to pull all this off without a hitch? Perhaps. For press and industry, TIFF is known as one of the most efficient festivals in the world to see movies. Buyers and critics can see five, even six, films a day with relative ease and none of the panic, queueing or hierarchy that accompanies Cannes screenings.
For the most part, that was the case again this year. The Scotiabank may be one of the more vulgar multiplex venues but its ten screens accommodated accredited P&I well.
But the balance between public and industry needs is a delicate one.
On the first Saturday of TIFF – probably the busiest day for industry in the entire festival – a glitch in a public world premiere screening at the nearby Roy Thomson Hall prompted TIFF to move several hundred public audience members to the Scotiabank and delay the first P&I screening of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. Accredited P&I stood waiting nearly two hours in the hectic lobby of the Scotiabank to see this keenly awaited new film, while another film getting its first P&I screening, Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood was bumped to another complex.
The pandemonium at the Scotiabank on that Saturday was the talk of the week for many of those caught up in it, not to mention the sales agents and publicists who had a lot riding on their P&I screenings.
Many industry visitors commented that they weren’t feeling the love from the organisation, feeling that the Lightbox opening was drawing resources away from the festival. Many felt the festival was geographically bifurcated between Yorkville where studio teams, US talent and press junkets were still based and downtown. Toronto taxi firms were in the money, for sure.
But industry guests often forget that Toronto is not a market, even though the Hyatt and ScotiaBank were teeming with buyers, sellers and producers from morning to night and abundant deals were being closed.
First and foremost, it is a public festival and the chief priority is the public audiences, who have paid $25 and upwards for a ticket, and who will be the year-round users of Bell Lightbox.
TIFF has been successful and its organizers can breathe a sigh of relief that the new complex is open and ready to be a fundamental component of next year’s event. But as this year’s edition showed, keeping all its constituents happy most of the time is a task which presents the Toronto management with the most uniquely demanding challenges of any A-list film festival on the circuit today.