Expect a return to cinema with exciting lineups for indoor and outdoor screenings, and interactive digital experiences for those at home.

There’s no question that the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) looked different in 2020. Red carpets were rolled up, digital screenings became a thing and most of us were popping our own popcorn at home. Unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures. 

While the festival rightly had to be reimagined due to the pandemic, the show did still go on. This made film lovers like me very happy. You see, I’ve been attending the festival since 2005 and truly couldn’t imagine a September in Toronto without TIFF. Fortunately, thanks to a very dedicated team, many of us were able to enjoy international cinema at socially distanced venues or from the comfort of our own homes. 

This year’s festival has a similar look and feel with two major changes: more indoor screenings and the return of red carpets! But don’t expect to see packed theatres and screaming fans lining the red carpets quite yet, TIFF 2021 will have very strict protocols to keep festival-goers safe. Of course, with TIFF comes a series of other special events and limited-time offers around the city so read on for my insider tips!

 

Outside the TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre at night on King Street West
TIFF 2021 welcomes guests back to in-cinema screenings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

In-person and digital TIFF film screenings 

The 46th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival takes place September 9-18 and will spotlight more than 100 films. Here are the three ways you can catch a film: 

  1. Socially distanced indoor screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Roy Thomson Hall, the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the Cinesphere Theatre at Ontario Place, and Scotiabank Theatre

  2. Outdoor screenings at the Visa Skyline Drive-In, the RBC Lakeside Drive-In, and the West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place

  3. Digital screenings via digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (for Canadian audiences only).

Tickets to screenings and events go on sale September 4 for TIFF Members and September 6 for the public. You can buy tickets for indoor Festival venues in singles or pairs (max two tickets per screening). Personally, I’m looking forward to attending the gala presentation of Dear Evan Hansen at Roy Thomson Hall. It will feel so good to return to the iconic venue! 

A few Festival COVID-19 protocols to note for Festival 2021: 

  • Indoor screenings have assigned seating and indoor venues will operate at a limited capacity

  • Proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or proof of negative COVID test within 48 hours of attendance is required to gain entry into Festival venues. This does not apply to the Visa Skyline Drive-In and RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place because audiences will be in their cars.

  • There will be no rush line or rush ticketing

  • Masks are required at all TIFF Festival venues

  • There will be no printed tickets or passes so you’ll need a mobile ticket to access venues

  • Concessions will not be sold at indoor TIFF Festival venues, but they will be available for purchase at the drive-ins

An actress signs autographs for fans at the Toronto International Film Festival
TIFF will welcome A-list celebs back to Toronto this year but will follow strict health & safety protocols

Red carpets and special events

Red carpets are back! But not in their full glory. Like most things this year, they’ll be modified to ensure festival-goers, staff and talent are kept as safe as possible. TIFF red carpets will take place inside Roy Thomson Hall and the Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars at Roy Thomson Hall before my gala screening—wish me luck!

While TIFF won’t be hosting any major parties, receptions or dinners for TIFF 2021, there will be some Festival-adjacent events and gatherings taking place this year.

Exciting talks with celebs

Featuring intimate sit-downs with some of the film industry’s biggest names, In Conversation With… is one of TIFF’s most exciting programmes. This year there will be conversations with Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kenneth Branagh. 

They will all be accessible through the TIFF Bell Digital Talks platform and you can purchase or reserve tickets. I’m looking forward to the chat with Kristen Stewart which is accessible to audiences worldwide on TIFF Bell Digital Talks for free (you can pre-register for this exclusive event).

2021 TIFF Tribute Awards

Grab some popcorn and tune in to the 2021 TIFF Tribute Awards on Saturday, September 18 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app in Canada. The awards will also be streamed internationally by Variety. This year, the Tribute Awards event and fundraiser will honour Jessica Chastain, Benedict Cumberbatch and many others.

Specialty cocktail from Shangri-La Toronto for Toronto International Film Festival
This Romance cocktail is one of the Shangri-La Toronto's special TIFF-themed cocktails around favourite move genres | Photo courtesy of Shangri-La Toronto

Star-worthy staycations, cocktails and meals 

One of my favourite things to do during TIFF is to take in all the festival buzz at our beautiful hotels, restaurants and bars. While things still look different this year, hospitality heroes still managed to dream up festival-themed offers so we can indulge and treat ourselves like stars. Here are a few experiences on my TIFF 2021 bucket list.

 

TIFF-inspired cocktails at Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

I still vividly remember when the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto first opened its doors during TIFF 2012. The buzz was palpable and the hotel quickly became a Hollywood favourite. 

While they won’t be hosting any large-scale TIFF events this year, the hotel will be celebrating film with the annual Film Cocktail Collection that draws inspiration from cinema’s favourite genres: Action, Adventure, Romance, Comedy and Drama. The cocktails will be available from September 9-14. I’m really looking forward to sipping on Romance in their beautiful lobby!

The Level 6ix dish from Ritz-Carlton Toronto serves Dungeness & King crab, , Kobe Beef Tenderloin, Forbidden Black Rice, Summer Truffle and Caviar
The 'Level 6ix' at The Ritz-Carlton is a truly decadent meal made for A-listers | Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Toronto

Exclusively curated TIFF menu at The Ritz-Carlton Toronto

You’ll know from my previous TIFF guides that The Ritz-Carlton Toronto is usually the spot for celeb watching. While this wasn’t the case in 2020, I suspect you’ll spot some A-listers at the hotel this year given the talent list that was just released by TIFF. 

I can’t wait to sip cocktails and listen to live music at the highly anticipated EPOCH Bar & Kitchen Terrace. If you really want to wine and dine like a celeb, order the Level 6ix ($600) which is a show-stopping dish featuring Dungeness & King Crab, Kobe Beef Tenderloin, Forbidden Black Rice, Summer Truffle and Caviar. To drink? Raise a glass to Alfred Hitchcock with their Shadow of a Doubt cocktail ($475). 

A man in a suit holding a wine glass with a woman in a long dress walks to him at the Fairmont Royal York hotel room in Toronto
Stay like a star by booking a suite at the Fairmont Royal York—Prosecco included | Photo courtesy of Fairmont Royal York

Fairmont Loves Film Stay Package 

Did you know that Fairmont Royal York has been featured in hundreds of films over the years? Now it's your turn to feel like a celeb in their ultra-luxe rooms and suites! Get 15% off Fairmont Gold Rooms or Suites along with a bottle of Prosecco when you book this package from September 7 to 18. I recommend pairing the star-worthy stay with a digital TIFF screening if you're not quite ready to hit the theatres. Cozy robes, bubbly and world-class cinema—why ask for more? 

A Polaroid camera and cocktail at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
Say cheese! Each TIFF-inspired cocktail at the Four Season's hotel comes with a Polaroid picture

TIFF-Inspired Cocktail At Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

Lights, camera, action! I always make it a point to pop by for a cocktail or meal during TIFF at my personal favourite hotel in the city, the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. This year, the team has dreamt up a cocktail aptly named The Paparazzo ($20) which is made with gin, dry vermouth, Aperol, chartreuse and Peychaud’s Bitters. Reserve a seat on their beautiful patio, order the exclusive cocktail and say ‘cheese’ because each cocktail comes with a souvenir Polaroid. What a fun way to remember TIFF 2021!