The Toronto InternationalFilm Festival Group (TIFFG) today (Tues) launched its new initiative to createFestival Centre, a film complex in Toronto located on the corner of King andJohn Streets which will consist of a five-storey podium building and aresidential condominium development.

Announced withmuch fanfare, the new facility will be housed on property owned by Hollywoodproducer Ivan Reitman.

The 150,000 sqft space will feature three permanent cinemas and two 'flexible'screening spaces for a combined total of 1,300 seats, as well as an exhibitionarea for showcasing film-related materials and a permanent home for the alliedfilm reference library.

While theSeptember festival is the signature event of the city's cultural year, itis one part of an annual programming and curatorial enterprise operating underthe umbrella of the Toronto International Film Festival Group (TIFFG).

Other TIFFGdepartments include the Sprockets children's film festival, the FilmCircuit, a touring collection of films from the festival, and, most importantin terms of the new facility, the Cinematheque Ontario, which programsscreenings year-round and currently uses an off-site screening room.

Festivaldirector Piers Handling told Screen International the new centre "willfocus our efforts, and allow us to realize the dreams of the entireorganization."

As to thefacility's impact on the festival itself, said Handling, "We werealways frustrated by the ten-day nature of the event", suggesting apermanent dedicated facility will allow TIFFG to play to the festival'sstrengths, particularly its renowned spotlights on international filmmakers,throughout the year. He added that whereas cinephiles and filmmakers of hisgeneration aspired to the lights of Hollywood or London or Paris,"finally we can do something here in Toronto." TIFFG managingdirector Michele Maheux suggested the facility could host a bi- or tri-annualfilm industry summit, not necessarily contemporaneous with the festival.

A purpose-builtfacility on the order of the American Film Institute or the CinemathequeFrancaise has been something of a quest for Handling and Maheux. Indeed, theannouncement is a leap of faith, given that TIFFG has accumulated only US$12mof a projected US$82m capital fund and operating endowment.

Maheux saidnegotiations with public and private sector partners is well underway. For nowTIFFG does not have its own public screening facilities; moreover, the autumnclosure of the 1000+ seat Uptown Cinema, a key cinema of festivals past, willput a squeeze on screening space for the 2004 and 2005 events.

Reitman, who wasraised in Toronto, told Screen International that his late father bought theproperty -- now valued at C$30m -- in the 1950s and that he and his sisters hadhoped to see the property put to the greater good of the city. He envisions thecentre as a focal point for informal gatherings of people in the industry. Arestaurant and bar area are part of the proposed design created byToronto-based architectural firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg.