For nearly two weeks every September, downtown Toronto becomes a star-studded, celebrity-packed city with all the glitz and glamour worthy of its “Hollywood North” nickname. The Toronto International Film Festival, founded in 1976, has become one of the most notable movie extravaganzas in the world, where dozens of new pictures are premiered and hundreds more screened ahead of awards season. Here’s what you need to know about TIFF’s latest installation.
What to know
While the haute Yorkville neighborhood was once the hotbed of action for the festival, the TIFF Lightbox headquarters has brought all of the festivities closer to downtown to King West. This year, the festival happens from September 4 to 14, and the most exciting bit is during opening weekend, when the biggest films and world premieres take center stage. Among the 37 world premieres at the festival, The Judge will kick things off. Robert Downey Jr. stars as a lawyer who travels back to his hometown to investigate murder accusations leveled against the town judge, his estranged father (Robert Duvall).
The final schedule was announced on August 19, and appearances from the likes of Downey, Denzel Washington (The Equalizer), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars), Kate Winslet (A Little Chaos) and Tina Fey (This Is Where I Leave You) for gala presentations of their new projects have all been confirmed. But even if you don’t make it to any of these star-studded affairs, TIFF has enough variety on its screens — kids flicks, documentaries and midnight horror features — to captivate any film fanatic.
What to see
Though TIFF is upon us, empty-handed movie lovers have some time to get in on the fun. Packages and single-screening tickets are still available to the public. Spoiler alert: These are often in high demand and sell out quickly, so strategize accordingly. It’s also possible for additional seats to become available at 7 a.m. on the day of the screening (via the TIFF website, phone or the box office). There’s no assigned seating at the showings so plan to arrive early to score a good spot, especially for a premiere.
For a guaranteed celeb sighting, head to one of the red-carpet spectacles. However, if you’re looking to just casually stalk Reese Witherspoon, you can’t go wrong hanging out in the lobby of one of Toronto’s top luxury hotels (see more on that below) or strolling King West’s buzziest restaurants like Luma, Byblos, Patria or The Spoke Club. The always-star-studded Soho House Toronto or Storys Building are playing host to many of the industry after-parties, so if you can somehow get into those affairs, your chances of elbow-rubbing with a star shoot sky high.
One of the most popular destinations for celebrities during TIFF is The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel that couldn’t be better situated. The property sits just steps from the gala screenings at Roy Thomson Hall, the red-carpet scene outside in David Pecaut Square and the buzz at the TIFF Lightbox. Unfortunately, the 267-room stunner is fully booked through the festival. But you should still visit its lobby for a drink at the morning espresso bar or the evening champagne bar (both pop-ups are specials for TIFF) in hopes of a Jane Fonda or Dustin Hoffman sighting. Or grab an early-evening cocktail at the Ritz Bar (a DJ will spin there September 4 to 7 and 11 to 13) overlooking the hotel entrance or a late-night digestif at DEQ Terrace & Lounge (a DJ will perform nightly September 4 to 13) and see who walks by.
Where to stay
If you do need to book a room, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Park Hyatt Toronto and Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto still have some availability. But make your reservations as soon as possible — rooms are filling up.
Aside from having available space, Trump Toronto is destined to be a festival hot spot with the unveiling of America and The Calvin, both from restaurant group Oliver & Bonacini and INK Entertainment. The brand-new restaurant and bar, respectively, will make their soft opening in time for the festival (both will officially debut after TIFF). Go to the 31st-floor restaurant for lavish takes on classic regional American cuisine. (“Chef Anthony Walsh is rogue and unapologetic in his cooking — and we’re excited about presenting American fare that truly represents the confidence and boldness of its namesake, but in a luxe and indulgent way. Like eating your way across Route 66 by way of private jet,” says Oliver & Bonacini co-founder and partner chef Michael Bonacini.) In the lobby, the jewel-toned Calvin will offer festival-goers an elegant-chic destination for a post-screening cocktail.