LET THERE BE LIGHT­BOX

THIS WEEK­END AT THE FEST, THE TIFF BELL LIGHT­BOX FLIPS ON ITS SWITCH FOR GOOD. GET READY FOR THE FIVE-THEATRE, MUL­TI­PUR­POSE VENUE TO MAKE T.O. AN EVEN BET­TER CITY FOR MOVIE LOVERS.

NOW Magazine - TIFF - - LET THERE BE LIGHTBOX - BY NOR­MAN WIL­NER normw@now­toronto.com

You might have no­ticed a dis­tinctly south­ward drift to the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in the last cou­ple of years. The Var­sity and Cum­ber­land Cine­mas, so es­sen­tial to the TIFF ex­pe­ri­ence of the 80s and 90s, are be­ing left be­hind, with the Sco­tia­bank and AMC Yonge & Dun­das 24 be­com­ing prin­ci­pal venues.

This year, it all comes into fo­cus with the open­ing of TIFF Bell Light­box, the fes­ti­val’s new en­ter­tain­ment com­plex on the north­west cor­ner of King and John.

De­signed by the ar­chi­tec­tural firm of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blum­berg, the Light­box isn’t just the fest’s new fo­cal point – open­ing Septem­ber 12 with an af­ter­noon block party fol­lowed by the Spe­cial Pre­sen­ta­tion screen­ing of Bruce McDon­ald’s Trig­ger – and the new lo­ca­tion of TIFF’s Cine­math­eque On­tario. It will also be a year-round des­ti­na­tion for cinephiles.

“One of the ad­van­tages of TIFF Bell Light­box is that it has the im­pri­matur of the film fes­ti­val and TIFF Cine­math­eque on it,” ex­plains the venue’s artis­tic direc tor, Noah Cowan. “There will be a cer­tain kind of con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion around our pre­sen­ta­tions – whether it’s on­stage talks, en­gaged learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties or ex­hi­bi­tions – that al­lows folks who aren’t 100 per­cent cinephiles to ac­tu­ally feel as though they can be part of the history and cul­ture of film them­selves.”

The build­ing is cer­tainly more wel­com­ing than the Cine­math­eque’s old digs in the AGO’s Jack­man Hall. The Light­box feels like a com­bi­na­tion of Lon­don’s Na­tional Film Theatre and New York’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art. The ground floor con­tains a gallery, a box of­fice, a re­cep­tion hall, a cafe­te­ria-style res­tau­rant, the O&B Can­teen, and a lit­tle shop, just like the NFT space in the South­bank Cen­tre. The the­atres are up­stairs, and along with a con­ces­sion stand and a proper Oliver & Bonacini resto-bar, it all feels like an amal­ga­ma­tion of MoMA el­e­ments.

The Light­box has five cine­mas, the small­est of which can also func­tion as a pro­duc­tion stu­dio. The other four are full-time au­di­to­ria rang­ing from a cozy 150 seats in the muted Cin­ema 4 to 549 plush red chairs in the flag­ship Cin­ema 1, which re­sem­bles long-gone Toronto movie palaces like the Up­town 1 or the Eglin­ton.

In ad­di­tion to host­ing Cine­math­eque On­tario, which starts its fall sea­son al­most as soon as TIFF wraps up, the Light­box will func­tion as a con­ven­tional mul­ti­plex for au­di­ences with un­con­ven­tional tastes. Apichat­pong Weerasethakul’s Un­cle Boon­mee Who Can Re­call His

Past Lives and Xavier Dolan’s Heart­beats will open in reg­u­lar en­gage­ments on Septem­ber 23, just days af­ter their TIFF pre­mieres; McDon­ald’s Trig­ger will open the fol­low­ing Thurs­day. ( Yes, Thurs­day. Light­box pro­gram­ming will roll over on Thurs­days in­stead of Fri­days, just to be dif­fer­ent.)

“You know, this is a great film­go­ing town,” Cowan says. “We have a fairly en­light­ened com­mer­cial cin­ema group book­ing films. We still have reper­tory houses, which is un­usual in North Amer­ica. We have a fan­tas­tic group of artist-run cen­tres also en­gaged in movingim­age pre­sen­ta­tion. I think our first cal­en­dar rep­re­sents where we can live most com­fort­ably within that land­scape.”

The Light­box will also serve as a home for restora­tions of clas­sic cin­ema. As part of Cine­math­eque On­tario’s Es­sen­tial Cin­ema pro­gram, Or­son Welles’s Citizen Kane and Michelan­gelo An­to­nioni’s L’Avven­tura will open Septem­ber 23. Other book­ings in­clude a new print of Al­fred Hitch­cock’s Psy­cho with a six-chan­nel sur­round sound­track (Oc­to­ber 28) and a ma­jor restora­tion of Fritz Lang’s Me­trop­o­lis (Novem­ber 11).

“TIFF Cine­math­eque has been do­ing a spec­tac­u­lar job in terms of re­vivals and restora­tions,” Cowan says, “but we feel as though the au­di­ence for those can be greatly ex­panded with TIFF Bell Light­box. The Es­sen­tial Cin­ema film show puts for­ward a propo­si­tion for peo­ple to ex­pe­ri­ence re­vivals in a way that hasn’t been avail­able in this city – re­ally ac­ces­si­ble films are be­ing re­stored on an on­go­ing ba­sis.

“We think Toronto de­serves more than one screen­ing of the six- chan­nel Psy­cho.”

“We think Toronto de­serves more than one screen­ing of the six- chan­nel Psy­cho.”

ARTIS­TIC DI­REC­TOR, NOAH COWAN

Years in the mak­ing, the TIFF Bell Light­box is ready for the red car­pet.

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