extraordinary TIFF Bell Lightbox, which is where we begin our
For 35 years, TIFF took place in Yorkville. Once ;ilmmaker Ivan
Reitman (Animal House, Ghostbusters) and his family partnered with
Bell, the government of Ontario, the government of Canada and the
city of Toronto to build TIFF Bell Lightbox on King Street, the festival
naturally migrated to the area, with the building serving as the main
hub of activity.
Two minutes after walking through its doors, I knew I was in
heaven. TIFF Bell Lightbox’s “contemporary design and color palette meets the rich history of ;ilm” aesthetic hit the tickle spot of
this designer/;ilm dork. I’ve never been in a theater like this. It’s an
architectural marvel; a series of “boxes within boxes,” its namesake
is based upon the very ;irst motion picture camera—a “lightbox.”
It’s a ;ive-story structure that features six state-of-the-art cinemas,
two restaurants operated by Oliver & Bonacini, a ;ilm reference library, galleries, a gift shop, a rooftop terrace and learning studios.
It’s also a top-shelf event space.
Event space may sound like a nice add-on in a theater, but it’s
vital when you understand the context of a ;ilm festival. See, a ;ilm
festival is more than a collection of movie screenings; it’s a series
of cultural events. The events are where the excitement of a freshly viewed ;ilm is shared, where the critical buzz spreads and
where the big Hollywood deals are made. Films are the lifeblood
of a ;ilm festival; events are the veins and arteries through which
that blood ;lows.
That blood ;lows mightily at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Here, press panels, studio hostings and pre- and post-screening receptions abound.
The aforementioned opening night party featuring 2,500 attendees
and celebrities was hosted at the theater. What’s more, since TIFF
Bell Lightbox is open 365 days, it can be rented out for private events
throughout the year. As a result of all this, it has become a true cultural center to the city of Toronto.
But TIFF event space isn’t limited to TIFF Bell Lightbox. Dozens
of hotels, restaurants, cultural centers, museums and galleries open
their doors to provide opportunities for receptions, meetings, parties
and even ;ilm screenings. TIFF is truly a Toronto-wide event, and like
the city, it is multicultural, inclusive and engaging.
It’s eight o’clock on Friday morning, and the ;irst full
day of TIFF begins. King Street, the main thoroughfare of
TIFF activity, is closed to traf;ic for the entire opening
weekend of the festival, which is no small feat—it’s the
heart of the entertainment district in the fourth-largest
city in North America. You can ;ill in the nightmarish
logistical blanks yourself. (I’ll get you started: TIFF
had to get the Toronto Transit Commission, the Mayor’s Of;ice and the Film Of;ice on the same page to
make this happen.)
The buzz of the previous night’s opening
party lingers in the air as excited cinephiles line
up in front of several theaters for the morning’s screenings, the first of 1,657 (!) that
make up TIFF’s film programming during the
next 10 days. One of these theaters is the
®/™ Toronto International Film Festival Inc. used under license.