The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) plans to reduce its lineup of films by 20 per cent for the 2017 edition, as well as drop two of the festival’s 11 public venues.
Movie screenings will no longer happen at the Isabel Bader Theatre and Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, which has the combined capacity of about 1,150, to better concentrate the festival downtown around the Bell Lightbox venue.
“The Bloor Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and the Isabel Bader Theatre served festival-goers well over the years and we have great memories of launching films there,” Cameron Bailey, artistic director of TIFF, told Global News. “We’ll continue to put this festival together for all of Toronto. Bringing the footprint closer to our TIFF Bell Lightbox neighbourhood will just make it easier to navigate for our busy audience members, media and industry.”
When asked if downsizing will create a more exclusive environment due to fewer films and venues, Bailey said that it’s more about bringing focus to TIFF’s choices while maintaining plenty of access to the diversity of films they bring in from all over the world.
“Whether you’re a festival veteran seeing 30 films or a first-timer, you’ll still be able to see a wide range of movies, and trust in our tighter curation,” Bailey told Global News.
Bailey believes that fewer films doesn’t necessarily mean less access for the public.
“We’re keeping all our largest venues so you won’t see any reductions for our most high-demand films. We’ll also keep encouraging people to seek out the hidden gems we’ve chosen from around the world. That sense of discovery is one of the most exciting parts of the festival, and you can often score tickets faster.”
READ MORE: TIFF co-founder Bill Marshall dies at 77
TIFF will be retiring two of its 16 curated programs:
Vanguard featured edgy films that challenged genre and art-house conventions.
City to City showcased filmmakers living and working in a selected metropolis with last year’s being Lagos, Nigeria.
Bailey told Global News that TIFF will continue to look for the kinds of films they featured in Vanguard and City to City, but they will present them in other contexts.
“You’ll see us focusing on global film regions through all festival sections and our industry programming, and you’ll find some of the sophisticated genre films that did so well in Vanguard in Special Presentations, Discovery, Midnight Madness and other sections,” Bailey revealed.
Last fall, an article from Variety took issue with TIFF’s size. It was titled “Has the Toronto Film Festival gotten too big for its own (or anybody’s) good?”
The article’s writer, chief film critic Peter Debruge, suggested that TIFF’s emphasis on trapping Oscar contenders prevented other films from getting the attention they really deserve.
“To put it bluntly,” Debruge wrote, “TIFF has become a dumping ground, serving up hundreds of new movies with hardly any discernible sense of curation,” adding the festival accepted “virtually any film with a couple [of] starry names in the cast – provided that they agree to walk the red carpet.”
Lat year, TIFF showed 269 features and about half of those were premieres. “There were lots of brand new films,” Bailey said. “The films we showed had 59 Oscar nominations.”
“Toronto is still the place that shows more award season contenders first, than anywhere else on the planet, so that’s still important for us, and we’re still wanting to make sure we have the year’s strongest films for our audiences,” Bailey said to The Hollywood Reporter. “Some will have come days before from other festivals, some will premiere here,” he added.
Many people took to Twitter to express their own opinions once the news of the cutbacks spread.
TIFF organizers also announced their 2017 lineup of programs and programmers today.
The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival programs are:
Contemporary World Cinema
Compelling stories, global perspectives.
Directors to watch. The future of world cinema.
Movie stars. Red-carpet premieres. Major audience interest.
In Conversation With…
Engaging onstage conversations with leaders in the film industry and beyond.
The latest from the world’s most influential art-house filmmakers.
The wild side: midnight screenings of the best in action, horror, shock and fantasy cinema.
Directors’ cinema now. Launched in 2015, this juried program shines a light on up to 12 selections that demonstrate directorial vision from international filmmakers.
Serial storytelling: television in its artistic renaissance.
The world. In short form.
High-profile premieres and the world’s leading filmmakers.
Curated gems from the history of Canadian and international cinema.
Candid and unscripted: the best non-fiction cinema from around the world.
TIFF Kids and TIFF Next Wave
For the next generation of movie lovers.
Daring, visionary and autonomous voices. Works that expand our notions of the moving image.
The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival Programmers are:
Western Europe, Italy, Poland; Gala Presentations, Platform
South Asia, Gala Presentations, Special Presentations, Platform
Ireland, the Netherlands; Gala Presentations
Western Europe, USA, Turkey, Gala Presentations, Special Presentations
Central and Eastern Europe, Central and Western Asia
East and Southeast Asia
Canada, the Philippines, Nordic Region
Africa and the Middle East
Spain, Portugal, Latin America, Caribbean
In Conversation With…
Australia, New Zealand, Israel, USA