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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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he Lightbox is The Toronto International Film Festival's main project, it is also the headquarters for the film festival TIFF(Macleans 1). This means that it is in charge of planning and organizing the affairs of the festival. The Toronto International Film Festival(TIFF) was launched in 1976 and has since become one of the largest and most attended festivals in the world(CITE). The Bell Lightbox opened in 2010 and is located on 350 King Street West, downtown Toronto. It was built with the aim of being a source of attraction to film lovers and tourists. The organization planned to raise $196 million and through personal donations, fundraising and loans the building finally opened in 2010.


    My background research began with a tour of the building itself. Tours tale place every Saturday at 1pm. I further researched by reading about the organization online on the official website and an article by Hertz and Haynes about TIFF, an article which I found particularly helpful. I also read the Globe and Mail article titled “TIFF Bell Lightbox- more than a philanthropic partnership” and the Macleans article titled “Lightbox fantastic: the Toronto film festivals new home”

   My next step was to interview the Lightbox's librarian Fatima Mercado, as well as the volunteer coordinator Amanda Parsons. I also interviewed Film lovers Kunmi Kassim and Barbro Boungouwere about their views on The Lightbox and how it helps correct the declining state in the movie industry.


    TIFF is a charitable organization which helps support emerging filmmakers both Canadian and International by providing a platform for them to have their work visualized(Hertz and Haynes). It provides a platform for people to see a wide range of movies, which cannot be viewed in the cinemas. The festival takes place every year and gets bigger as the years go by, with an increasing amount of people attending annually.

    “TIFF is dedicated to presenting the best of international and Canadian cinema to film lovers. What began as the Festival of Festivals over 40 years ago, has become the world's most important publicly.(TIFF official website).

    My first step was to find out if there has been a decline in the rate of people who pay to view movies. An article by Brenda Lang titled The Reckoning revealed that there has actually been a decline in the number of people who pay to see movies. This is a big problem that the movie industry is facing because the younger audience is more interested in contents which can be streamed on their phones or tablets and even though they still pay to see some movies there is still a big shift from the big to small screen(Lang 02).

   With this research I began interviews which concentrated on The Lightbox and programs which they do to make people more interested in films. On Saturday November 25th, I interviewed the librarian at the Lightbox, Fatima Mercado who was very helpful because she was able to give me details about the library's role in the organization. Volunteer coordinator Amanda Parsons who had been with the organization since the building opened also provided me with further information. On the 15th of November also I interviewed film lovers and critics Kunmi Kassim and Barbro Boungou on their views about the Toronto film festival, their experiences and critiques


    Fatima Mercado is the librarian at the reference library she has worked at an environmental engineering company as their librarian. She is also a film enthusiast and has a passion for the knowledge of film, ranging from old movies to new ones to international movies to Canadian movies. In her opinion, there is so much about film and the festival. She is also a fan of paying to go see a film and going to a library to see old films and different films. She also pointed out that most of the films which are collected at the library cannot be found online because most of them are really old films. A lot of people have no idea that such a collection of movies exists right at their doorstep. Awareness of this would lead to an increase in the number of people coming to the library.


    From the lightbox, there is an amazing view of the cn tower and historical building such as the church. With projects recently introduced to ease congestion making it easy for travelers to visit and look around. On the first floor there is the lobby, gift shop, canteen and the ticket booth. On the second floor there are three theatres and the food place, there is also a list of their donors, the contributors circle.

On the wall TIFFs mission which is “Tiff is a charity informing, transforming and inspiring. It is a charity changing lives in our community” is boldly written. On the third floor, there is the Bell blue room which is the members lounge which encourages people to join. The members present their card and are treated to complimentary tea or coffee as they relax and interact with one another. It is open from 4:30 – 9:30 on Monday to Friday and 11:30-6:30 on Saturdays It has two small theatres which fits about 50 people. For a person is living in Toronto it is advisable to become a member, especially as a student as it is cheap. It costs $48-$49 for a year, with discounts to see movies plus invitations to talks and also discounts at the gift shop.

   The goal of the Lightbox was five screens which housed 1,400 seats plus other parts such as museum scale exhibitions, a film reference library and archive, a retail store and a vast array of educational and community outreach initiative (Hertz and Haynes). I discovered during my tour that the site which houses The Lightbox was a hospital hotel, houses, a gas station car wash. Over the years it was rebuilt and demolished to create a new facility. The carwash was owned by the Reitman family a Jewish family from Czechoslovakia. They survived the Holocaust and became popular people in Toronto, Ivan Reitman who was a comedy director of ghostbusters and other movies bought the carwash. After his death, the site of the carwash was suggested as the site for the lightbox, a hub for all film lovers to view movies and learn. Some of the artifacts which were found on the building which houses the Lightbox while it was being renovated were preserved such as a femur, medicine bottles, toothbrushes made of bone, etc. before the Europeans came the it was aboriginal land which is why many aboriginal pieces are part of the artifacts these pieces can be found at the reference library.

   TIFF has gradually become an event which has people from all over the world attending. It lasts for 11 days with 28 locations during the festival where many movies are screened. The Roy Thompson hall is also turned into a cinema.  The Lightbox's year round programming earns TIFF a large amount of income yearly (HERTZ AND Hhaynes) during TIFF, the bell lightbox is always very busy. According to film critic and lover Kunmi Kassim “The lightbox is a very interesting place to be during the festival because it is not like every normal day. It is always full of life and buzzing”.  Most of the places turned into cinemas are normal theatres, all of the staff at The lightbox participate during TIFF and they are in charge of organizing and transforming the venues where the movie will be screened during the festival and packing up after the festival. There is a fifth floor at the bell lightbox with a very small cinema which fits 40 people. Only staff have access to it this is where the programmers view and pick the films for the upcoming festival The movies submitted to TIFF are accepted and viewed by these programmers who then streamline them to a specific number

According to The Lightbox's Librarian Fatima, “The festival shows like hundreds of movies, and they just use other spaces to show these movies” The busiest is usually the Scotiabank cinema because Tiff has 15 screens there. At the lightbox there are only 5 screens but being the center of the festival, the best movies are shown at the Lightbox.

   On the fourth floor there is a large floor space which is covered with tables and chairs for the people working nonstop during the festival, this workspace has boxes at the back which is used to collect materials for the film reference library and the film reference library. The film reference library is called the Cibc Canadian film gallery and it has 60,000 film files which include press kits, photographs movies, which are in dvd, vhs  and other formats ranging from different genres such as American, Asian and African films, 20000 books, 13000 film titles which can be screened in the library, 2,000 film scripts, etc. The library can also be converted to an exhibition space. The Lightbox used to have many exhibitions but this reduced because it was quite costly. It is free but materials cannot be taken out. “On a daily basis, like 3-5 people come to visit the library because they want to research materials or see a film in the library for their personal enjoyment. It is free and you don't have to be a MEMBER, but it increases during the final assignments period”. The library is free, but to see a movie costa $14 but the movies are specialized films which cannot be seen anywhere, it is slightly more that Cineplex and this is one thing that contributes to less people paying to see a movie

Tiff movies cannot just be seen randomly, unless its festival season and the movie is out to the general public because there is a specialized programming. This says a lot about the decline of people interested in going out to discover about films, people rarely think to search the library for movies but would rather search for a movie online and if they do not find it forget about it, unless it is really important. The rate of people who view movies with YouTube and online streaming being available she said that in the Library not as much people come to research movies like before. That also has to do with how many people come to survey they building because they are interested in the whole idea of film, also how many people know about the resources available to the general public “with pirating being everywhere, I don't have the numbers in my head right now but I would assume that it has gone down”(Mercado)

    The Library has tours with schools, colleges come in and show them round and resources in the library to attract people, with posters and exhibits which brought people who don't know about film, The Library has a facebook page and the Library manager Michelle LoveGrove Thompson, tries to attract as many people as possible to the Library by posting things which bring in a lot of people who are interested in film. The lightbox helps people have an understanding of the films by bringing the filmmakers or directors for a Q and A so it is not just watching the movies but they actually get something from it. They don't just show the movies but there is a theme around showing movies. The amount of people who love films is depreciating, people actually love the film most times they don't go and watch it in the cinema because they cannot afford. Online streaming sites affect people that come to see movies and in general there is a trend in people being less willing to leave their house because they want to be comfortable and they just wait for it to come out online.

.  The Lightbox reaches the popular audience by screening old movies or collecting these movies to make it available to the popular audience, with international movies and Canadian movies, a variety of movies being made available to the public. For the library there is no criteria for accepting films, many films are accepted and are made available to the public.


According to Babro, I asked her how she knew about the Lightbox and she said “TIFF itself is really good at its marketing skills, everyone knows about the festival, as long as you live in Toronto you know about it, you feel like you are a part of it because it is happening all around you and the excitement around the Lightbox makes you even more attracted.” Films are expanded to a popular audience through social media and online services, it is a non-profit organization compared to big theatres such as Cineplex who have many sponsors.

The lightbox has an advantage because it showcases films that are not available anywhere else in Toronto, if you want to see something that is not mainstream that is the only place that you can see that in Toronto. People pay for movies if they know that it is their only opportunity to see a film and this is an advantage of the Lightbox because the movies shown are worth paying for.

“sometimes I go to movies by myself and I'm not even with anyone I'm just by myself and I feel a sense of community, we all laugh at the same time and even if I don't know you personally I know that somehow we are still sharing the same experience”. This was Kunmi's point of view about seeing movies in theatres compared to seeing movies at home. The Lightbox promotes the love of gathering together, in addition to the film talks which vary from specialized talks to food talks and these talks helps draw a different crowd to the Lightbox.  Besides the talk the festival is a way of The Lightbox capturing its audience because it is advertised a lot of times, a person going to the theatre can be attracted to the Lightbox through articles. For some movies people do not mind waiting for it to come out online while or some other types of movies there are people who are die-hard fans of these movies and would not wait a day without going to see it.

   According to Amanda Parsons, “in my own opinion, the market is too saturated with just one thing and this is why you have people like myself who are not venturing beyond American cinema and trying to find things that are different” The declining rate of people who pay to see movies has to do with the genres of movies that people are interested in and what they want to see being produced, many people do not see themselves spending a lot of money on a romance movie or comedy which is why The Lightbox is different because it provides people with proper movies which have been carefully selected through many processes. This shift of people venturing beyond is because people are tired of the same thing and just stop paying to see it.



   The bell Lightbox plays a huge and important role in ensuring that people have a different opinion about film, by selecting the top films from the festival to be screened over and over again and working tirelessly during the festival to ensure that TIFF is a success. The building is more than just the headquarters for TIFF, it plays a huge role in maintaining the standard of TIFF and ensuring that even as people's preferences change in the choice of movies which they like, they can still be interested in going to see a movie or paying to be part of an experience. It also encourages people to reason beyond what they see in the movies which they watch and also helps them have their questions answered thereby gaining more knowledge and insight.

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