By William Wolf


The new Bell Lightbox building of the Toronto International Film Festival is everything one hoped it would be. The attractive structure, which opened dramatically with a block party for the public during the 2010 Festival, is a film mecca that can serve the city all year around with assorted programs, as well as a center where film buffs can congregate. My personal exploration right after the opening was pleasureable and enlightening.

The attractively and distinctively designed Lightbox, located at John and King streets, has five cinemas of substantial size. It is topped by a condiminium tower, but the center of interest for film lovers is the portion of the building devoted to the activities of TIFF, the intialed shorthand for the Toronto Internaitonal Film Festival.

I attended a few screenings and found the theaters handsome, with comfortable seating, good sized screens and excellent sound. State of the art, as they say.

There is also on the ground floor a room that projects images from film history, giving a sense of the sweep of movies during the past century.

I sampled the Lightbox restaurants and found the food to be well prepared and reasonable as well as trendy. Dining there is inviting, whether in the café street level area, or on the second floor. Service was pleasant and attentive.

There is a ground floor shop for books, memorabilia and other items of interest, all fairly priced. The entire building gives the impression of being user-friendly. Its main function will be as a place where coordinated film activity will be available all year. Of course, as was the case this year, special use will occur during Festival time.

The cost of the Lightbox approached $200 million Canadian, and the building was designed by the Toronto architectural firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg. It is a fitting monument for TIFF, which celebrated its 35th anniversary and has grown into one of the world’s largest festivals. It employs a staff of 100 fulll time, as well as part time and seasonal staff. It also counts on some 2000 volunteers, much appreciated judging by the applause that the volunteer program gets when announced on screen at the various Festival showings. My experience has been that the volunteers are a great lot, going out of their way to be congenial and helpful.

With the building of the Lightbox in the downtown area, the focus has shifted to this section in terms of the Festival presentaitons and activities. Those of us covering the event have had to book hotels convenient to the area instead of the uptwn hotels popular at previous Festivals.


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