Toronto Film Festival Implements Pandemic-Era Layoffs, Salary Cuts

J. Countess/Getty Images
Toronto Film Festival

TIFF has eliminated 31 jobs, or 17 percent of its workforce, as the COVID-19 crisis has slashed revenues ahead of its September festival.

The Toronto International Film Festival has laid off another 31 employees as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic cuts deeply into its operating revenues.

"In response to the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on TIFF's regular operations, we announced today the difficult decision to reduce our full-time staff by 17 percent, which represents 31 valued employees," Toronto festival co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey said in a statement.

The Bell Lightbox, the Toronto headquarters for the event-oriented festival, has been shuttered since March, and pandemic-era restrictions on travel and large gatherings are expected to greatly constrain operations for TIFF's normally star-studded event in September. 

Toronto fest organizers are forecasting a 50 percent reduction in overall revenues year over year. "As a nonprofit organization, we carefully considered how to manage the loss to our operating budget, while preserving as many jobs as possible and ensuring a sustainable business model," Vicente and Bailey said in a statement.

On Wednesday, TIFF will outline how it will stage its September festival, which is traditionally seen as a launchpad for awards season contenders. In the meantime, the COVID-19 crisis has forced TIFF to dramatically redesign its business operations for both Bell Lightbox and the annual film festival.

"To mitigate these impacts, we have applied salary cuts at the executive, senior management and management levels; cancelled discretionary projects; reduced expenses; utilized the federal wage subsidy to cover a portion of our payroll; and launched our For the Love of Film fundraising campaign to help in TIFF’s recovery," Vicente and Bailey added.

In November 2019, TIFF eliminated another 15 jobs as the prestigious festival redesigned its business yet again while adopting a new five-year strategic plan.

The 2019 edition of TIFF hosted the inaugural Tribute Gala, a glitzy fundraiser that was expected to be an annual event and potentially the first major prize ceremony of Hollywood's awards season.

The Tribute Gala's honorees last year included Meryl Streep, Joaquin Phoenix and Jojo Rabbit helmer Taika Waititi. 

But with the coronavirus pandemic calling for TIFF to stage its September event under strict health and safety guidelines, in-person fundraisers backed by Hollywood stars are an unlikely prospect.