Toronto is Hollywood's Top Awards-Season Launch Pad, Festival Head Declares

Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Faced with Telluride increasingly stealing TIFF's thunder with "sneak premieres," CEO Piers Handling said the Canadian event offers the best platform for wannabe Oscar contenders.

TORONTO -- Move over, Telluride.

The head of the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday declared that the Canadian event is Hollywood's top awards-season launch pad.

"Toronto is now positioned as the key festival in the world for the Golden Globes and Oscars," TIFF CEO Piers Handling told reporters during a conference call after Toronto unveiled its full film lineup.

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With the increasing overlap among Telluride, Venice and Toronto, Handling and fellow organizers are keen to protect their reputation as the best venue for wannabe Oscar contenders.

"When we're out negotiating for films, companies, producers and agents are very aware of what Toronto can do in terms of giving a profile to a film, to performances and some of the other positions as well," Handling said.

Toronto, in recent years, has increasingly dealt with announcing a world premiere for a film, only to see the title make a last-minute dash to Telluride to generate its first Oscar buzz with a "sneak premiere."

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TIFF organizers were also eager to show off their public festival credentials.

"It's not just the films that draw people to Toronto for the festival; it's the audience as well," Cameron Bailey, TIFF artistic director, argued.

He added that film buyers attend public screenings to gauge the commercial potential for a film post-Toronto.

"How a film plays here will tell you a lot about what life it will have after the festival," Bailey insisted.

The Toronto International Film Festival is set to run from Sept. 5-15.