tiff 2020

TIFF reverses optional mask policy following criticism

The Toronto International Film Festival has come under criticism for its mask policy in recent days, which previously stated that movie-goers could remove masks or face coverings during in-person screenings once seated inside the theatre. 

But it seems TIFF organizers quickly took the critiques to heart, and they've already announced that they're reversing the policy. 

"We're aware of recent public health reports indicating an increase in COVID cases in the GTA. We have made the decision that for the safety and peace-of-mind of #TIFF20 patrons, TIFF Bell Lightbox will close its concession stands, eliminating a point of contact for patrons," reads a tweet from the festival posted Wednesday evening.

"As no food or beverage will be consumed on site, TIFF requires that masks are worn for the entirety of the time patrons are in TIFF Bell Lightbox, including while seated during screenings."

The mask debacle first began when an article published in the Hollywood Reporter pointed out the potential for the festival to become a "superspreader" event as a result of the lax mask rule. 

Other film lovers and experts weighed in soon thereafter, with several international publications covering the debate including Vulture.

The pressure clearly had an immediate effect, because TIFF reversed its policy roughly 12 hours after the Hollywood Reporter article was published. 

And in addition to announcing that concession stands will be closed and masks will be required at all times, festival organizers are also reminding movie enthusiasts of several other measures that will be in place to protect against virus transmission.

"On top of assigned seating at TIFF Bell Lightbox, we have ensured that a 2-metre circumference exists for patrons while seated, with an empty row and a minimum of three open seats between them and other moviegoers," they wrote on Twitter

The festival also says they've greatly reduced capacity in TIFF Bell Lightbox cinemas, including lowering capacity from 530 to 50 seats in Cinema 1, 358 to 50 seats in Cinema 2, and 152 to 34 seats in Cinema 4. 

"In TIFF Bell Lightbox, employees will monitor the atrium, the escalators and elevators to encourage traffic flow. Doors to the cinemas will remain open so that no line ups will form," reads the TIFF Health and Safety webpage.

"An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. By attending TIFF, you voluntarily assume all risks related to the exposure to COVID-19 and agree that you will not hold TIFF liable for any illness that may result."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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