Bell Lightbox draws TIFF action southwards

New festival hub launches Sept. 12

Downtown or Uptown?

That's the dilemma for deal-makers at next month's Toronto International Film Festival with the new Bell Lightbox headquarters pulling the fest's center of gravity from chic Yorkville to the city's up-and-coming entertainment district downtown.

To reflect film market action starting to migrate south, TIFF has rebranded its meet-market, the former Match Club on Bay Street near the Sutton Place Hotel, as the new Filmmakers' Lounge on Peter Street, just north of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on King Street.

"It will feel like there's a real geographical focus for the film festival," TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey says of the new festival hub around Bell Lightbox, which launches September 12 with a huge block party, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Bailey cautions TIFF's southwards push will take time, as TIFF market-makers stay at their favorite hotels in classy Yorkville.

What's more, Toronto has no official market like Cannes or AFM, as email and speed dial keys enable film buyers and sellers to connect in an instant.

"But if they want to be where the festival is, where the heart of the festival is this year, that will be round King and John Street," Bailey insisted.

Fest director Piers Handling agrees Bell Lightbox and surrounding restaurants, nightclubs and hotels will become a magnet for festival networking, partying and deal-making, just not overnight.

"It will take a couple of years for that to happen. I saw this occur in Berlin," he said, referring to the Berlinale gradually coalescing round the Potsdamer Platz with red carpet film premiers, hotels, restaurants, and the festival's staff headquarters.

And while Hollywood stars will hold court at premiere parties on King and Queen streets downtown, they won't likely stay in neighboring boutique hotels just yet.

The A-listers will instead overnight in Yorkville at the Four Seasons and the Intercontinental, which have long guarded their privacy and served their every needs when Hollywood stars are in Toronto for TIFF or extended movie shoots.

But the shift of Toronto's epicenter to Bell Lightbox and King Street after it launches on Sept. 12 is inevitable, Handling added: "No one likes a festival that's spread out and everyone wants to be able to run into one another really quickly."
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