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One of the city’s biggest events of the year is the Toronto International Film Festival (generally referred to as TIFF). TIFF is one of the world’s top film festivals; it attracts scores of celebrities and cinema buffs from all over the world.

TIFF takes place every year at the start of September, beginning the Thursday night after Labour Day (the first Monday in September), and lasting for eleven days. You can get all the latest movie schedules and info at the official website, www.tiff.net.

More than 300 films are screened from 60-plus countries, adding up to a total of over 1000 screenings over the course of the festival. Total attendance at TIFF has exceeded 250,000 in recent years, and has continued to gain profile.

The event is widely considered to be the most influential and most important film festivals after Cannes. For those eleven days, the city of Toronto becomes enthralled with celebrity. 

Massive parties and galas are common across the city as actors, directors, and writers mingle with VIPs from the business side of cinema. 

Toronto becomes obsessed with celebrity leading up to and during the Toronto International Film Festival, with newspapers constantly reporting the comings and goings of major movie stars. The hobby of celebrity watching (or stalking?), one distinctly uncommon to Canadians otherwise, becomes commonplace. 

Of course, this is nothing new to celebrities, who may still consider Toronto rather nonchalant compared to Los Angeles or New York.

Nonetheless, during TIFF the city is transformed, as everyone wants to get a piece of the action. Yorkville and King West are the busiest neighbourhoods, but the nightlife of the entire city is given a shot in the arm for the two weeks or so around the festival.

Nightclubs are especially popular, as companies and celebrities rent out spots like Musik and Roosevelt Room for special parties and events. Elsewhere, cocktail lounges like Böhmer and Harbord Room create special drinks named after famous stars.

One of the differences between Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival is that the latter is a public film festival, open to everyone. That is, as long as they are able to get a hold of tickets. 

There is no point in leaving things to the last second when it comes to TIFF, as tickets for the most popular films are snapped up quickly. While single tickets are available, it is more common to buy packages. 

A variety of such packages are available, both which allow the movie-goer to pick their own choices, or “TIFF Choice” which lets their programmers customize it for you.

While TIFF used to be centred around the ritzy neighbourhood of Yorkville, more recently the attention has gravitated towards King Street West. The anchor of the festival is found there, the newly constructed Bell Lightbox Theatre

Located at the corner of King Street and John Street, the gleaming five-story complex of the Bell Lightbox is an architectural marvel, designed by world-renowned firm KPMB on land donated by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters). It features a three-storey public atrium, five public cinemas, two galleries, a learning centre, a bistro, a restaurant, and a lounge.

Many of the major movie premieres take place at the Bell Lightbox as it is the glamourous year-round headquarters for TIFF. American Beauty, Sideways, and Up in the Air are among the movies to have premiered at TIFF in the past, and every year the literal red carpet is rolled out for multiple blockbuster movies presented here for the first time.

While the biggest focus is on the Bell Lightbox, the rest of the festival’s movie screenings occur in and around the Downtown Toronto area; both at commercial theatres and special venues. 

Theatre Scotiabank, on Richmond Street West, is a huge multiplex that devotes much of its space to the Toronto International Film Festival over the eleven days. AMC Yonge-Dundas 24 is another participating multiplex venue. 

In the Entertainment District, films are screened at Roy Thompson Hall as well as the famous Princess of Wales Theatre. Smaller venues can be found all over the downtown area, including The Winter Garden Theatre, on Yonge Street, and the Isabel Bader Theatre, located just off Avenue Road on the campus of the University of Toronto.

A recent addition to the Toronto International Festival has been the outdoor film series presented at Yonge-Dundas Square. This free outdoor programming runs throughout the festival, and is projected up on huge screens for the crowds to enjoy. 

And there certainly are crowds — an estimated 287,000 people enjoyed the festivities in 2010.

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