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Toronto Film Festival weighing onsite, digital options for September event

The 2020 Toronto Film Festival, set to run Sept. 10 to 20 in Toronto, is weighing options to go online and remain, where possible, with…

The 2020 Toronto Film Festival, set to run Sept. 10 to 20 in Toronto, is weighing options to go online and remain, where possible, with a physical event amid planning concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

Festival co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey on Thursday said they are moving ahead with planning for the traditional September event, but are considering moving some events online, if necessary, to comply with safety precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We recognize that in planning for the Festival now, there is still uncertainty about what ‘people coming together again’ will look like come September. This is why we are looking at both onsite and digital innovations that will provide options that will deliver for our audiences, support filmmakers and our partners, and bolster the industry,” Vicente and Bailey said in a joint statement.

As TIFF programmers plan for the September event, the festival says they have been collaborating with rival festivals that were earlier cancelled or delayed. “Our goal is to offer a united platform to share programming,” Vicente said in a YouTube video.

“We have to refocus our energy while navigating the challenges presented by the current global crisis,” Bailey added, as festival employees have begun to work remotely at home and the festival looks for new ways to stream movies and operate in an evolving digital world.

Self-isolating Canadians have already been invited to virtual chats with Hollywood stars led by Bailey, followed by movie screenings on the Crave streaming service. The Stay-at-Home Cinema offers the virtual Q&As via Instagram Live @tiff_net, starting with Homeland star Mandy Patinkin, followed a streaming of Rob Reiner’s 1987 film The Princess Bride, starring Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, on Crave.

Bailey is set to host at least the first three virtual chats with Hollywood stars and movie screenings, to include Sarah Polley being interviewed before streaming play for Away From Her on Crave, and Catherine O’Hara and production designer Bo Welch on April 3 talking about their work on Beetlejuice, which will also stream.

A TIFF industry conference has been set to run Sept. 11 to 15. Toronto and Ontario health officials earlier warned against mass gatherings in the province amid the virus outbreak.

Festival organizers have been hoping that the health crisis might have been contained in time for the annual September event, considered a traditional launch pad for Hollywood’s awards season.

TIFF’s five movie screens at its Bell Lightbox headquarters have been shutttered during the COVID-19 crisis, reducing operating revenues for the festival.

Toronto’s disrupted plans for its September event come as a number of events and large gatherings have been postponed or halted due to concerns about the spread of the disease as officials seek to encourage social distancing.

Cannes, Tribeca, SXSW and other main dates on the festival circuit were earlier canceled or postponed.

Source: THR.com