So for the next 10 days, you will find me somewhere along the TIFF path as the 40th Toronto International Film Festival kicks off today. From September 10-20, Toronto will be the central hub for all things film. Stars will be gracing the red carpet like it’s Oscar season. Highly anticipated films will premiere. World class directors will show off their latest projects. And us media people will have a chance to party and watch tons of movies.
I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from people about how to see TIFF movies, or how am I able to see all these movies when I didn’t bother with an industry pass this year. This is awesome because it tells me people are actually reading what I write (woo-hoo!)
Right now you can buy single tickets online, phoning in, or going to the TIFF box office at Metro Hall near King and John Street. This info, the complete film schedule, and more can be found at tiff.net. If a movie you want to see is sold out (the term used is “Off Sale”), you have two options: 1. Contact the box office the day of the film’s screening to see if any last minute tickets have been released. This can be time consuming as you must call them first thing in the morning and could be on hold for a couple hours. 2. Rush Line. Go to the theatre and stand in the rush line. You may want to go a few hours early so you can be one of the first in line. Basically, the theatre wants a full house. So once all the ticket holders have been seated, any empty seats will be open to those in the rush line to purchase. This is a gamble. In 2006, almost the entire rush line got into Babel. In 2008, I waited 7 hours in the rush for Burn After Reading, third in line and did not get in.
So how am I able to see all these movies? Well, in July, ticket packages go on sale. The most popular package is the 10 ticket Flex pack (I think they have a 20 and 40 ticket Flex as well; they all work the same). All you’re buying here is tickets and they can be used for any non-premium screening when the film schedule gets released in August. When you buy, you’ll be given a pickup voucher and a selection window – basically a time and date when you can select your films.
All the films are divided into Programmes, so you also have the option to purchase a programme package. For instance, if you’re star crazy you can buy a package for all the red carpet screenings, or if you’re a genre fan like me, you can get the Midnight Madness package, which will have all the films being screened at midnight.
The 10 ticket Flex can be used in anyway you want. You can select ten movies or use up to four tickets for the same screening (so you can bring your friends). Once you have selected your films, you will be sent a confirmation code. Bring that confirmation code along with your pickup voucher and photo ID to the festival box office a few days before the festival begins, and your tickets will be waiting for you.
It sounds like a complicated process, but it’s been this way for years. And the people at TIFF are incredibly well organized. I’ve been going for six straight years now and never had a problem.
Now what films should you go see? Well, to me, it makes no sense for me to sell my left arm to see Black Mass when it’s going to open in regular theatres in like two weeks. But I am seeing The Martian. If you want to be in the same room as Johnny Depp though, maybe it’s worth it for you. But what I do is I plan all my films on the days I’m free such as weekends or evenings. I’ll see three, maybe four movies on the same day. In this case, I’ll just browse the movies that are playing on these days. If I’m fortunate enough that one of these movies has Bill Murray in it, then great. If not, there are tons of hidden gems that you may never get to see in normal theatres. After all, the whole point of a film festival is to see the work of lesser known indie filmmakers who are looking for distributors to get their work out to the public.
Anyways, now you know. Hope to see you down here sometime. It’s pretty awesome!