tiff 2021

Changes to TIFF 2021 leave Toronto streets looking like a ghost town

Closed streets packed with pedestrians pressed against velvet ropes, the drone of overlapping shutter clicks, and shouts of celebrity names are all mainstays of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and also things you won't experience at 2021's celebration of cinema.

The 46th edition of TIFF runs for ten days, presenting almost 200 films, though there are many differences this year.

Unlike the "before times" when crowds were a defining element of the festival, the current situation requires a decentralized screening plan mixing in-person theatre, drive-in, and open-air cinema screenings along with the continued streaming from-home digital film screenings introduced last year.

With much of the activity happening remotely and in locations away from the Bell Lightbox, what has traditionally been the hub of frenzied celebrity sightings at King and John Street is looking pretty desolate compared to past festivals.

Views of the site captured during the first day of the festival on Thursday look nothing like the bustling scenes of red carpet sightings that have come to define September in Toronto. TIFF is looking a whole lot different.

No road closures are in effect this year, in contrast to the "Festival Street" that has overtaken the thoroughfare in the past, limiting it to pedestrian traffic. Cars still travel freely on King, and pedestrian traffic is average if not looking a bit light.

The illuminated "TIFF" sign, usually a popular selfie spot installed in the middle of King Street, sits off to the side of the Bell Lightbox's main entrance.

Here's how we really know that this year's TIFF is different: The problematic escalator at Scotiabank Theatre is still working.

A pandemic has gutted this beloved festival to its core, but seeing this perpetually broken escalator functioning as intended is still somehow the most jarring image captured so far at TIFF 2021.

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