It's only July, but it's already time to start planning the first few weeks of your September as ticket packages for the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival went on sale this morning. With individual tickets again priced at a whopping $20 for regular screenings, the packages are the most affordable means of seeing all the films you'll want to see. If you've spent the last nine months clamoring for the infamous advanced ticketing juggernaut that kicks the festival into motion every year, the time has officially come to consider your options.
With new selections debuting this year, and old favourites regrettably tossed out with nary a 'so long, farewell', pilfering through the choices that are actually worth your hard-earned cash is usually a migraine-inducing chore. Gone are the Student Day Passes, which allowed anyone with a student ID to see up to five films in a day for the price of one. Also given the axe were the 15 and 25-film daytime packs - good for films starting at 5pm and earlier - which have been merged into a single, 20-film compromise.
With the only other real additions coming in the shape of 'TIFF Choice' 5-film samplers (and do you really want a stranger deciding what you see?), organizers have gratefully left much of the menu unchanged. So without further ado, here are some tips for making your decisions:
- Stick to the 'My Choice' options. You'll have to deal with the whole lottery system - fill out a form saying what you want, put it in a random box, cross your fingers your box isn't processed last - but at least you won't get stuck with a ticket to Rio Sex Comedy. Inevitably, if you get a good box placement, you'll sing the praises of the lottery, and if you're at the end of the line, you'll curse it to every innocent passerby for the following three days; it's a patchy solution, but it prevents the Battle at Helmsdeep from being re-enacted on King St. the first day orders are accepted.
- Don't fear sidebars with films you've never heard of. TIFF is a massive amalgamation of so many different tastes: star-driven populism, middle-brow award-seekers, austere arthouse, and everything in between. Sure, there are films that we've all been looking forward to for months, but that obscure no-name in the Visions program is in the festival for a reason. This is all to say: there are packs on sale for the Wavelengths (avant-garde) and City to City (focus on Buenos Aires this year) sidebars, which year-in, year-out have some of the best films in the entire festival. See them at a discount.
- Make time during the day to see films. The best value for money in the entire festival is the 20-Film Daytime Pack. At $170 ($145 for students), the price-per-ticket is low enough to quiet all the 'why pay $20 when you can wait a few weeks and see it for $12' naysayers. There were some raised eyebrows last year when TIFF decreased the number of early morning screenings, de-valuing the Daytime Packs, but they've vowed to not do that this year. Sure, anyone with classes or day jobs will be hard-pressed to catch the early start times, but, if you have the means, don't wait on this package; it sells out the quickest every year.
- Devote your life to cinephilia, do nothing else. The 50-Film Pack ($524, or $444 for students) is the motherload for the independently wealthy, or those who plan ahead and slot all of their vacation time for these eleven September days. There is no cheaper way to see as many films as the hours in the days will allow than this (about $10 a ticket), and it will grant you permanent 'hardcore' status amongst all of your friends. Or they'll just think you're weird and obsessive. Either way, a great deal for the dedicated.
Ticket packages go on sale today for all non-TIFF Members who can pay with a VISA, and on July 11 for everyone. Tickets and packages are sold Online, by phone 416-599-TIFF or 1-888-599-8433 Monday to Friday, and, as of August 23, in person at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Box Office at 350 King St. West from 10 AM to 10 PM.
Photo by David G. Tran in the blogTO Flickr pool