Toronto Film Fest Plans Digital, Drive-In, "Open-Air" Screenings for 2020 Edition

TIFF sign - Getty - H 2020
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

The Bell Digital Cinema platform for general public viewing of TIFF-selected titles in September will also be geo-blocked for Canada.

The Toronto Film Festival has unveiled plans for drive-in and "open air cinema" screenings on the city's waterfront to offset reduced capacity at its only two indoor movie theaters set for the Sept. 10-19 event.

And TIFF's Bell Digital Cinema platform for general public screening of movies selected for the 2020 edition will be geo-blocked for Canada, organizers said on Monday. TIFF co-heads Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, having already signaled a hybrid offering of digital and in-person screenings for their September event, revealed plans to show the public around 50 programmed films at five locations in the city.

These include the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the festival's downtown headquarters on King Street, and the Isabel Bader Theater on Charles Street, near Yorkville. As the prestigious Canadian festival heads outdoors for socially distant film viewing amid the coronavirus pandemic, TIFF will also show movies at the Skyline Drive-In and the Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place, on the city's Lake Ontario waterfront, and at the West Island Open Air Cinema, also at Ontario Place.

"At the drive-ins and open-air cinema, audiences can expect the same high-quality viewing experience as in past years," the festival said in a statement. At the same time, the five venues will be subject to reduced seating capacity to comply with local public health restrictions.

Elsewhere, TIFF's online plans include industry conference sessions, networking events and digital showcases of film titles by national cinema agencies. Planning for a first-time online industry conference follows the physical edition of the Toronto Film Festival being sharply reduced in size and scope due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, 2020 TIFF audiences will not, as in earlier years, view movies at red carpet venues like the Elgin Theater, the Princess of Wales Theater and the Ryerson Theater, in addition to in-person press and industry screenings at Cineplex's Scotiabank Theater.

As Toronto allows ordinary Canadians in their homes to instead view fest titles using Chromecast and a dedicated TIFF digital app, organizers said they will use anti-piracy measures, including forensic watermarking and visible watermarking, to protect the copyright of film titles, including studio fare, against piracy.

The 2020 pandemic-era edition will also see the same ticket pricing as last year, even though Hollywood A-list talent will not physically walk red carpets or onto movie theater stages at this year's socially distant event. Pre-tax screening tickets for the indoor and Bell Digital Cinema screenings will range from $19.00 to $26.00, and drive-in screenings are to cost from $49.00 to $69.00, depending on the number of people in cars.

And open air cinema screenings will cost two people $38.00 for a "lawn pod."