By Melissa Houghton

Where did the summer go? It’s just about time to swing into full fest mode! The 44th Toronto International Film Festival will run from September 5 to 15.

Film lovers, whether this is your first time to fest, or you’ve been attending since the beginning, we thought we’d share a few tips and news which could make your time at TIFF more enjoyable.

There’s so much you can do during Festival – attend a red-carpet Gala Presentation or one-time only Special Event, day nap before a Midnight Madness screening, listen to an In Conversation With to hear from leaders in the film industry, check out TIFF’s free Festival Street, see the free screening of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award; and, did we mention choose from a few hundred film screenings during Festival?

What’s new?

Festival Schedule

This year the schedule is going digital, which means, you need to go online to view all the curated programming at a glance. The condensed paper version will not be available however you can still purchase the Festival Programme Book, it will be in the TIFF Shop on August 20, or pre-order it now. Visit to review the Festival Programme and start your list of what to see as festival films are announced. The full schedule goes live online on August 20.

Box Offices

This year, before the start of festival (August 20 to September 4), go to TIFF Bell Lightbox at 350 King Street West to make in-person ticket purchases or pick-up physical tickets you buy online, that is, if you don’t wish to print at home or download tickets to your mobile. You can also pick up tickets at the film venue box office the day of the screening. Box offices open 30 minutes before the first screening of the day, and close 30 minutes after the start of the last screening of the day.

TIFF Tribute Actor Award

Meryl Streep will be honoured with its inaugural TIFF Tribute Actor Award. This event will be held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on September 9 and is going to be a star-studded fundraiser. Streep is in Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, makings its North American premiere at TIFF.

Festival Programmes

There are over ten programmes to choose from including:

Contemporary World Cinema – films that tell compelling stories from a global perspective

Discovery – this category showcases films by directors from around the world

In Conversation With – onstage conversations with leaders in the film industry

Wavelengths – a collection of audacious and visionary-themed films

Gala Presentations – these films garner major audience interest, and red-carpet arrivals and more…


Maybe you just want to check out one Gala Presentation, a Midnight Madness screening or a film that may not be released for some time to come, know that non-members can purchase individual single tickets starting September 2 online at or at the Festival Box Office.

Also, don’t rule out packages which offer good value and are the best chance to get your first choice of films. There may still be time to purchase a package and get into queue to make your film selections in a few weeks.

Pricing is tiered at four venues, but you will have assigned seating which is handy to know you have a specific seat at the theatre.

There are prices for weekday daytime adults and weekday daytime pricing if you are under 25, this pricing applies to those venues without assigned seating. Visit for all details regarding Festival ticket pricing.

No Advance Tickets

Don’t despair, it may sound intimidating but there’s always the Rush Line at every theatre venue for all screenings, including at Roy Thomson Hall for Gala Presentations. Some festival attendees swear by it. If you don’t mind waiting in line once a movie has gone “rush”, there is a chance you’ll get to make new friends while waiting, and you are fortunate because you got into that must-see movie everyone is buzzing about. There is no guarantee you will get in of course after waiting in Rush. It’s a very good reason to pack your patience and maybe something to read. Note: The Rush Line opportunity does not apply to the Press and Industry (P&I) Rush Line. Only media can rush for the P&I Rush Line.

Free Tickets

In the Programme, there are free ticketed events. Free tickets for the TIFF Cinematheque programme, can be reserved online starting September 2 (August 31 if you are a TIFF Member). These tickets are only available while quantities last. Free tickets for the September 15 screenings of the Grolsch People’s Choice Award and the Toronto Platform Prize winners, will be issued at the venue two hours before the screening.


It was mentioned recently that Scotiabank Theatre and the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre may be holding screenings for the last time. Maybe you’ve heard, these two venues may be unavailable next year due to new residential construction or/renovations. Both are great venues and perhaps worth taking in a film at one or both of the venues for old time sake?

Now that we’ve talked about the nuts and bolts of how-to fest, let’s not forget some handy pointers how to be ready for all the excitement and fun you’ll have.

Staying Healthy

Comfort first, this is the time to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather – you will be lining up for stretches at a time with fellow patrons, or you could be standing outdoors or indoors, until theatres are ready to let people in. September can be a fickle month so be prepared for whatever Mother Nature presents.

It’s important to stay hydrated; we suggest you bring water and perhaps snacks and note that certain venues do not permit food inside the theatre auditorium, only water. So, nourish yourself and eat in advance particularly as venues do not allow outside food or adhere to a “no food” in the auditorium policy.

If standing for long periods isn’t possible investigate with the venue how to access a lobby pass.


Congratulations, you have your ticket! TIFF recommends you arrive 30 minutes prior to your screening at venues with assigned seating (Roy Thomson Hall, Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre, Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre). For all other theatres you should show up one hour before your screening. Seating is only guaranteed 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the screening. Latecomers will be admitted at the discretion of the venue staff. It’s always a good idea to check the provisos on the ticket to avoid disappointment.


There are a few venues that are in close proximity to each other such as TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall, the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre and Scotiabank Theatre in the Entertainment District; and Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre which are adjoined and directly across from the Eaton Centre. These venues don’t require as much travel time in between, unless you are seeing a movie at Elgin followed by a film at Roy Thomson Hall.

In addition, other venues will take a bit more time to travel to and from.  It’s important to be mindful of your travel time and leave as much time in between films as possible. This will help ensure you don’t miss your movie. Once again, if you are seeing a film at Scotiabank Theatre and your next film is at the Ryerson Theatre you will need to determine how quickly you can motor it over to the other venue. All this to say, leave time for travel and lining up to make your movie on time.

Another tip is to make sure you check where your movie is playing before you head out. I’ve only done this once, but I was sure my 5:30 p.m. screening was at Ryerson Theatre. Well, I arrived at Ryerson at 5:00, only to discover my film was screening at Scotiabank Theatre! I’m sure you can figure out the rest since I did not leave enough time to begin with. I now follow my advice.

Festival Venues

Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario – 200 seats, single screen, located at 317 Dundas Street West

Ryerson Theatre – 1,221 seats, single screen, located at 43 Gerrard Street East, home for Midnight Madness screenings

Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre – 1,723 seats, single screen, located at 300 King Street West

Roy Thomson Hall – 1,962 seats, single screen, located at 60 Simcoe Street (at King Street West), home of Gala Presentations

Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre – two cinemas – 1,003 and 954 seats, single screens, located at 189 Yonge Street

Scotiabank Theatre – fourteen cinemas, seating 134 to 553 seats, multi-screens, located at 259 Richmond Street West

TIFF Bell Lightbox – five cinemas – 45 to 523 seats, multi-screens, located at 350 King Street West

Festival Street – a stretch of King Street West the first week turns it into a pedestrian-only street festival. There is also an area along Festival Street called Red Carpet Fan Zone.


After the Festival

Ever wonder what happens after the annual festival ends? Well, if you can’t get enough of Festival 2019, you can always head over to TIFF Bell Lightbox for year-round programming. It’s a great place to watch films after the Festival for first-run movies as well as TIFF Cinematheque.

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