TIFF tip sheet: your guide to the Toronto International Film Festival

By Jenn Reid
Last updated September 11, 2017

It’s time for TIFF once again! Every year, Hollywood comes north and transforms Toronto into a glitzy, star-studded and jam-packed film festival. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the biggest and most prestigious film festivals in the world (right up there with Cannes!) and can often kick off a film or increase a star’s Oscar chances. But for all us regular folk, it’s a chance to see cool new movies before they hit theatres, get a selfie with an A-list celebrity, or dance the night away in the proximity of the rich and famous. [Photo credit: courtesy of TIFF]

Check out our guide to TIFF 2017 to help you navigate the festival!

TIFF tip sheet: your guide to the Toronto International Film Festival

THE STARS

Let’s get the important information up front: who’s coming to TIFF this year? The folks at TIFF put out a handy list each year of all the stars expected to attend, but unfortunately it’s always subject to change — you never know when someone gets scheduling conflict, or their private jet runs out of fuel. Regardless, it’s safe to assume the stars will come.

This year’s fest will have A-list actors like George Clooney, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lawrence, Penelope Cruz, Louis C.K., Angelina Jolie, Jake Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Tom Holland and more. And it’s not just actors that descend on the town! Basketball legend Vince Carter will be attending, as well as music superstars Drake, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Mary J Blige.

Here’s the full list of all the 2017 attending stars

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THE MOVIES

There are approximately 300 films screening at TIFF this year (that is not an exaggeration), so you’re bound to find something you’d like. The opening night film this year is a tennis drama called Borg/McEnroe starring Shia LaBeouf. Another tennis movie playing at TIFF with lots of buzz is Battle of the Sexes starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell. If you’re looking to catch future Oscar contenders, you’d be smart to catch George Clooney’s Suburbicon (co-written by the Coen Brothers) and Call Me By Your Name, a romantic drama that won people over at Sundance.

Or do you prefer documentaries? Foreign films? Horror movies? TV shows, even? There’s a TIFF film series for you. Check out TIFF’s film list here, and use the filters at the side to refine your choices. You can also look at the schedule here.

THE TICKETS

There’s two ways to snag tickets to a TIFF movie: buying them in advance, or waiting in the rush line.

Tickets go on sale to the general public September 4, and you can buy either online or in person at the festival box office in Metro Hall. On the day of your desired screening you can buy tickets from the box office at the venue — unless it’s off sale.

In that case, you’re going to have to try your luck in the rush line! Rush lines start outside every theatre for sold out screenings, and once all the ticker holders are inside the theatre, people in the rush line get a chance to buy tickets and fill in any empty seats. Rush lines are cash only, so make sure to stop at the ATM on your way there!

Ticket prices this year are based on when you’re seeing the movie: On weekends and evenings (the busiest times) it’s $28 for regular screenings, and $52 for premium (red carpet). During weekdays, you get a bit of a discount, with ticket prices starting at $18. Ticket prices can increase by $2 to $7 depending on their popularity.

THE CELEB HANGOUTS

Maybe you don’t want to spring for movie tickets, but still want to rub elbows with Angelina Jolie. You’re not the only one! There are certain spots around town that are best for catching sight of the stars.

While Yorkville is always a safe bet, many celebs stay downtown to be close to the festival. Hotels like the Shangri-La, Thompson Toronto and the Ritz-Carlton have all hosted celebrities during TIFF in the past. You can also try chic restaurants like Sassafraz, Montecito and Brassaii, where stars have been known to dine.

If you want a guaranteed a glimpse of someone famous, you can always attend a red carpet before the films. There’s a designated fan waiting area where the stars will pose for pictures and sign autographs!

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THE FREE STUFF

Between premiere movie tickets and fancy Yorkville dinners, TIFF can be pricey. That’s why it’s best to take advantage of the free screenings. The TIFF Cinematheque program offers free screenings of classic and restored films from Canada and worldwide. Check out all cinematheque films here.

You can also catch free movies and events on Festival Street. The first weekend of the festival closes off King Street to traffic from University to John, with musical performers, food trucks, and free screenings.

There’s also a free special screening of Dunkirk happening in IMAX at the Ontario Science Centre’s Cinesphere, with director Christopher Nolan on hand to introduce the film. Even though the screening is free, you’ll need to reserve tickets in advance — this one will likely fill up fast!

THE PARTIES

Unfortunately, a lot of the parties are closed to the public. But, there are still a few ways you can party your way through TIFF!

The TIFF Soiree is an annual fundraiser by TIFF with celebrity hosts and guests from the film industry. This year, actress Priyanka Chopra is the special guest and will give an onstage Q&A. Tickets start at $300, and are available here.

TIFF Ovation is a party that happens at Malaparte, located on the sixth floor of the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets start at $40.

More parties and events will be announced closer to TIFF, keep checking back for more info!

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