TORONTO The Toronto International Film Festival kicked off Thursday night with 3,000 guests attending the annual opening night gala. For the first time since 2001, organizers selected a different location—or, locations—for the event: Maple Leaf Square, Real Sports Bar and Grill, E11ven, and a corridor of the Air Canada Centre.
While organizers thought the event thrived at the Liberty Grand, they agreed it was time for a change. “This is very different, because it’s just an entirely different space,” said planner Barbara Hershenhorn of Party Barbara. While each of the venues are connected within Maple Leaf Square, they all have a different look and feel. Real Sports is a massive sports bar, while E11ven is a sleek restaurant and lounge. So Hershenhorn created distinct areas in each space, drawing from the festival's opening film, Looper—where the main character travels through time to different locations, including Paris, Shanghai, and Kansas—for the decor and food.
Fittingly, video was the focus of the gala. Organizers made full use of the new venues’ many television screens, including Real Sports’ 199 screens and Maple Leaf Square’s 50- by 80-foot video wall. “We have a whole content team programming our screens,” said Hershenhorn. Festival film previews, classic movie clips, the TIFF schedule, and marketing materials flashed throughout the venues. The screens also showed footage from the event's red carpet, where Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt made an appearance.
The Toronto International Film Festival continues until September 16.