Toronto Film Fest Launches "Stay-at-Home" Cinema With Virtual Q&As, Streaming Movies

Cameron Bailey -Getty -H 2016
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Festival co-head Cameron Bailey will hold a virtual chat Friday night with Mandy Patinkin, before 'The Princess Bride' streams on partnering service Crave.

Self-isolating Canadians are being invited to grab their popcorn and view virtual chats with Hollywood stars led by Toronto Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey, followed by movie screenings on the Crave streaming service.

As TIFF joins other major film festivals in moving online during the coronavirus pandemic, Bailey, who is also festival co-head, will tonight launch a Stay-at-Home Cinema offering by chatting via Instagram Live @tiff_net with Homeland star Mandy Patinkin.

That will be followed by Rob Reiner's 1987 film The Princess Bride, starring Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, streaming on Crave, which competes in the Canadian streaming market against dominant players Netflix and Amazon Prime.

"TIFF has a longstanding partnership with Bell Media and Crave, so it was a natural progression to work together during this global health crisis,” said Joana Vicente, TIFF executive director and co-head, in a statement as she notes Crave-parent Bell Media is the festival's biggest corporate sponsor.

TIFF's Bailey is set to host at least the first three virtual chats with Hollywood stars and movie screenings, to include Sarah Polley being interviewed on April 1 before streaming play for Away From Her on Crave, and Catherine O'Hara and production designer Bo Welch on April 3 talking about their work on Beetlejuice, which will also stream.

Netflix, Amazon and Crave have long battled to sign up Canadians increasingly viewing movies and TV shows on their TV sets, tablets or smartphones, with competition only now accelerating as Canada imposes strict stay-at-home measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2018, Netflix’s Outlaw King nabbed the opening night slot at TIFF, which angered first-night sponsor Bell Media. In a sign of Bell’s muscle, TIFF opened its 2019 edition with the Crave documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band.

"During these challenging times, we continue to look for ways to keep people connected, comforted and entertained, and the power of film and TV accomplishes just that," Bell Media president Randy Lennox said in his own statement.

TIFF's Stay-at-Home Cinema initiative comes as the Canadian festival looks beyond the coronavirus crisis to being able to stage a physical event in September, long considered a key launching pad for Hollywood's awards season, or prepares to move the event online this fall as a safety precaution.

March 31 2:30 p.m. Updated with additional Q&As and movie screenings for the Stay-at-Home Cinema initiative.