Toronto fest ups price for red-carpet films

Event to charge more for tickets to major premieres

TORONTO -- Toronto International Film Festival attendees are set to pay more this September for guaranteed celebrity sightings at upscale festival screenings.

TIFF organizers on Monday said they will charge a premium ticket price in September for select world and North American premieres that receive red-carpet treatment.

The Toronto festival will charge CAN$38.27 ($35.60) per ticket for "premium" public screenings that include red-carpet strolls by celebrity actors and directors in town for world or North American bows.

Roy Thomson Hall and its giant red carpet off of King Street will continue to host the high-profile opening- and closing-night selections and gala presentations in Toronto.

And TIFF last year lengthened the red carpet outside Roy Thomson Hall to snake around the back of the theater so the assembled media got a better angle and access to incoming movie stars and directors.

This year, festival organizers decided to increase the number of red-carpet Cadillac dropoffs at the event and to charge eager fans for a guaranteed glimpse of their favorite stars or filmmakers.

A festival spokeswoman said the new premium ticketing aims to offer filmgoers a "red carpet experience" in a host of other festival venues beyond Roy Thomson Hall, including the Elgin and Ryerson theaters in downtown Toronto.

The new ticketing system also answers criticism from Los Angeles producers that, absent a much-sought-after North American or world premiere at Roy Thomson Hall, they were harder pressed to get TV reporters and paparazzi out to catch a movie's stars and directors in the TIFF media glare.

Allowing the media to fan out to assorted TIFF theaters to catch Hollywood stars in their red-carpet get-ups should help Toronto secure more Oscar-caliber world and North American premieres in competition with Venice and Telluride.

At the same time, redefining its premium ticket pricing to include red-carpet strolls and high-profile premieres may give fire to TIFF critics who contend that the thronging masses have been increasingly shouldered aside in Toronto to make way for wealthy donors, gold patrons and other star-seekers willing to pay extra for guaranteed festival access.

TIFF organizers have also extended their annual event one day longer to 11 days in all, from Sept. 9-19.