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Movie-goers line up outside the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto during the film festival last September. (Getty Images)
Movie-goers line up outside the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto during the film festival last September. (Getty Images)


TIFF closing in on its Lightbox fundraising goals Add to ...

It's been an arduous eight-year ascent for the Toronto International Film Festival but it appears the summit is within reach. This week the festival announced it recently received donations totalling $7-million, all of them earmarked for the $196-million capital and endowment campaign for the Bell Lightbox, the festival's purpose-built headquarters which opened last September in downtown Toronto.

The announcement means that TIFF has reached 96 per cent of its fundraising goal and is now "only" $8.2-million short of completion.

The festival, founded in 1976, announced in April 2003 that it had decided to construct a purpose-built headquarters, including several theatres, with an anticipated construction start of 2005.

However, ground for the Lightbox was only broken in spring 2007. When it appeared likely that the five-storey facility, built as a podium for a condominium high-rise, would not reach its fundraising targets by opening day, the Ontario government in spring 2009 agreed to provide TIFF with a low-interest loan of up to $46-million.

Spearheading this most recent round of donations, according to sources close to TIFF, were HSBC Bank Canada and Toronto hotelier Steve Gupta.

Together they're contributing a total of $4-million. The $3-million from HSBC, described by the film festival as "one of the largest philanthropic contributions ever made to TIFF," gives the bank naming rights to the Lightbox's main-floor gallery, which is currently hosting an exhibition of works by U.S. director Tim Burton.

Gupta's $1-million gift gets his name and that of his wife, Rashmi, affixed to the Lightbox's box-office. In addition, three Gupta-owned downtown Toronto hotels, the Marriott Residence Inn and two Hilton Garden Inns, get to be called "Premiere TIFF Bell Lightbox Hotels."

Meanwhile, TIFF is reporting that it is half-way to its goal of raising $1-million in its "Reach for the Top" initiative. The campaign, started a year ago, is to finance the Lightbox's rooftop space, including a large outdoor staircase inspired by the Malaparte staircase on the isle of Capri, immortalized cinematically in Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 film Contempt starring Brigitte Bardot.

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