Fewer stars, smaller crowds at TIFF 2023 opening night

Click to play video: 'TIFF 2023 launches without usual Hollywood heavyweights'
TIFF 2023 launches without usual Hollywood heavyweights
WATCH: TIFF 2023 launches without usual Hollywood heavyweights – Sep 7, 2023

Fewer people lined the streets on Thursday as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023 officially kicked off.

This year, around 200 feature films are set to be shown across the 11-day festival.

The opening night film, The Boy and the Heron from acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, about a boy on a journey into a magical world after the death of his mother in the Second World War, has been highly anticipated.

However, less buzz around this year’s festival meant smaller crowds along the usually packed streets of Toronto’s Entertainment District on opening night.

With the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) members both on strike, far fewer celebrities are expected to attend TIFF this year.

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The strikes mean union members can’t attend all publicity events.

However, some stars have — and will — be making the trip to Toronto in other capacities such as directing or producing.

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These include Patricia Arquette who directed the film Gonzo Girl which is having its world premier at TIFF on Thursday.

One festival attendee told Global News this was his first year at TIFF, but said he knew it wasn’t going to be the typical experience.

“I expected to see a lot of people and big crowds,” he said. “But I’m really excited to see directors and people from the industry as well.”

Eleanor Noble is the National President of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA).

She told Global News that it is “always sad not to see the big main stars here because they’re on a strike.”

“They have certain rules that they have to follow, and that’s what’s happening,” she said. “But that’s good, that’s hopefully putting some pressure on the AMPTP to get back to the table and work out a fair and reasonable agreement with them.”

However, Noble noted that Canadian actors and performers are not on strike, adding that there are “many famous” performers in Canada that are expected to attend the festival.

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Noble said ACTRA is “very proud” to have TIFF in Canada.

“We have many high-profile Canadian performers as well that will be attending. ACTRA is not on strike for the film and television jurisdiction,” she explained. “So we will be here and showing off our Canadian productions.”

“It’s always sad not to have all our SAG AFTRA siblings here with us,” she continued. “We will miss them but we do stand 100 per cent in solidarity with them and the steps they need to take in order to keep applying that pressure to get back to the table and work out a fair deal.”

Noble said ACTRA will be holding a solidarity rally with SAG AFTRA on Saturday in Toronto, noting that ACTRA’s commercial district has also been on a lockout for 17 months.

“So we stand in solidarity with them – they have our back; we have their back. Their issues are our issues, and our issues are their issues,” she said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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