A pandemic-tailored guide to the Toronto International Film Festival 2020

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, file photo, a view of a festival sign appears on Day 1 of the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto. TIFF organizers announced Tuesday, July 23, 2019, that the upcoming festival will include the premieres of the superhero film “Joker,” a Mister Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks and “Hustlers,” a film about strippers scamming Wall Street bankers, with Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File). Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

TORONTO — Put away the autograph book and forget getting a selfie with a star.

At next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, the red carpet will remain rolled up; there won’t be any long rush lines at theatres; and any star-seekers hanging around hotels will surely be disappointed.

The annual festival has, however, been reimagined to suit the COVID-19 pandemic, with a mix of in-person and online experiences.

Attendees can still watch films and star chats at outdoor screenings, online across Canada, and in smaller showings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

So get cozy on the couch, and fire up the car or mouse — here’s a guide to navigating TIFF’s watershed 45th edition.

Read more: TIFF announces venue, pricing details in response to coronavirus pandemic

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The festival runs Sept. 10-19.

TIFF will hand out its annual festival awards, including the People’s Choice prize, on Sept. 20.

The industry conference runs Sept. 10-14.

TIFF Patrons Circle Members in the Leadership top tier can buy individual tickets this Friday.

Individual tickets go on sale to other membership tiers in subsequent days: Platinum on Aug. 29; Gold on Aug. 30; Silver on Aug. 31; Bronze on Sept. 1; Contributors Circle on Sept. 2; Members 365 on Sept. 3.

Subscribers to TIFF’s e-newsletter can buy individual tickets using an emailed code on Sept. 4.

Public individual tickets go on sale starting Sept. 5.

Visa Infinite cardholders will receive an advance window to purchase individual tickets online.

Sales for digital screenings are closed between Sept. 7-9. But digital screenings purchased before those dates will be added to Bell Digital Cinema accounts on Sept. 9, after which online screenings will be available for booking again.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox box office will open starting Sept. 8 for will-call pickups for in-cinema or drive-in screenings. However, patrons are encouraged to use mobile ticketing.

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The slimmed-down slate has over 50 titles, from features and shorts, to documentaries and TV series.

The opening night presentation is Spike Lee’s filmed version of David Byrne’s Broadway concert “American Utopia.” Mira Nair’s coming-of-age BBC series “A Suitable Boy” will close the festival.

Other star-packed titles include actress Regina King’s feature directorial debut, “One Night in Miami”; Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand; and Kornel Mundruczo’s “Pieces of a Woman,” starring Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf.

A downloadable version of the film schedule is at Printed schedules are no longer available. A printed version of the festival program book is also unavailable this year. A downloadable version will be available instead.

Read more: TIFF 2020 movies: Regina King directorial debut, ‘One Night in Miami,’ among 50 titles


Online public screenings will be on TIFF’s new secure platform, Bell Digital Cinema. Most of the festival films will be on the platform.

Those screenings will also have a limit on the number of tickets sold and be geoblocked to Canada.

Films will become available to watch on different days, with a 24-hour viewing time limit.

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Indoor screenings are set for TIFF Bell Lightbox. (The Isabel Bader Theatre was also originally booked but is no longer available.)

The Lightbox will have a reduced capacity as per COVID-19 safety measures. The province’s Stage 3 pandemic guidelines currently cap a movie theatre’s occupancy at 50 guests per cinema, depending on the venue’s total capacity. Masks or face coverings must be worn at all times in TIFF Bell Lightbox, except when seated in the auditorium.

Patrons are asked to arrive no earlier than one hour prior to the screening. Lineups will be formed outdoors, rain or shine.

Outdoor screenings will happen at Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView, RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place, and West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place. Those venues will also have a limit on capacity.

All in-person and drive-in screenings have assigned seating and parking; there is no tiered pricing.


Tickets sales will take place online at and by phone _ 416-599-2033 (Toll-free: 1-888-258-8433).

Tickets for digital screenings can also be bought at Bell Digital Cinema —

There are no ticket packages, and there will be no rush ticketing at in-person venues.

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Individual tickets can only be purchased in singles or pairs; maximum two tickets per account, per event. Paired seats cannot be split. If there are no more single seats available, you must purchase the pair.

However, beginning Sept. 5, it will be possible to purchase tickets for groups of 20 or more for in-person screenings if they’re still available.


TIFF Bell Lightbox: Regular film screenings are $19. Premium film screenings are $26. (Premium screenings apply to all films included in the Gala and Special Presentation programs.)

Bell Digital Cinema: Regular film screenings are $19. Premium film screenings are $26.

Visa Skyline Drive-In at CityView, and RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place: A car with one to two people is $49. A car with three-plus people is $69.

West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place: A lawn pod for two people (pedestrian) is $38.


With a ban on non-essential travel between the Canada-U.S. border, there’s a slim chance of seeing a TIFF celeb in person this year. But the stars will shine virtually.

Actors Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins will be among those honoured in the TIFF Tribute Awards, which will air on CTV and the network’s digital platforms on Sept. 15. It will also be streamed globally by Variety magazine.

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Film talent will also appear in virtual talks and Q-and-A’s, and some local filmmakers plan to be at in-theatre screenings.

TIFF celebrity ambassadors will also be posting on social media. Priyanka Chopra, for instance, will do an Instagram event. The festival will also have a virtual reunion series, including one with Darren Aronofsky for “Requiem for a Dream.”

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