As many as three of the cinemas in the new TIFF Bell Lightbox will be open to moviegoers for this year's Toronto International Film Festival, a senior festival executive says.
Jennifer Bell, TIFF's vice-president of communications, confirmed Friday that the largest theatre in the planned five-theatre, 1,380-seat venue - a 550-seater - will "definitely [be]ready to go" Sept. 12, the opening weekend of TIFF35, and "we may program up to three" theatres for public screenings.
It's been known for almost a year that the festival planned to make use of the five-storey Lightbox during its 2010 run Sept. 9-18. But TIFF director Piers Handling made it official at a party Friday evening at France's Cannes film festival organized by TIFF and the Ontario Media Development Corp. honouring Canadian filmmakers at Cannes.
Construction of the $129-million facility, TIFF's new permanent home, started in spring 2007 on a site owned by Canadian filmmaker Ivan Reitman ( Ghostbusters, Animal House) and his sisters, Susan Michaels and Agi Mandel, and located between John and Widmer streets on King Street West. "We expect the building to be fully operational by late fall," Ms. Bell said in an e-mail, while TIFF staff, numbering more than 100, will have moved into their offices there by the end of September.
TIFF still has to raise almost $35-million of the $196-million it's budgeted for the Lightbox building, its operating costs and endowment. Last month it hired former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory as chair of fundraising for the Lightbox. The facility is part of an integrated development that includes a 41-storey condominium, which is scheduled for occupancy in the fall.
Besides the five theatres - the other four will seat 350, 250, 150 and 80, respectively - the Lightbox will contain a three-storey atrium, a film reference library, three restaurant-lounges, educational studios and two galleries, all for use year-round. Beginning Nov. 18, the galleries will host an exhibition of 700 drawings, set pieces, maquettes, storyboards and other artifacts from the films of U.S. director Tim Burton ( Beetlejuice, Alice in Wonderland). The exhibition, announced last year by TIFF, recently completed a five-month run at New York's Museum of Modern Art where it drew more than 800,000 visitors, making it the third most popular show in MoMA's 81-year history. The others were exhibitions in 1980 and 1992 devoted to, respectively, Picasso (977,000 visitors) and Matisse (940,000).
"This is one of those rare shows that really appeals to people of all ages," said Mr. Handling in Cannes. "All of our staff and board and sponsors are really looking forward to it."
With a report from Liam Lacey in Cannes