TORONTO’S LIGHTBOX EXPLODES THIS SUMMER





FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

SUSAN SARANDON, GEENA DAVIS, OLYMPIA DUKAKIS and GENA ROWLANDS are among the film stars booked for a summer of talks and screenings at the TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX, where organizers hope to nearly double the number of subscribers by the end of the year.

The arthouse theatre and event space boasts 6,000 members since opening as the new permanent home of the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL last September, artistic director NOAH COWAN said Wednesday from Cannes, where he was on the hunt for LIGHTBOX fare.

But the plan is to raise that figure to 10,000 supporters in the next six and a half months through special events – including an appearance by SUSAN SARANDON and GEENA DAVIS at a 20th anniversary screening of their landmark film THELMA & LOUISE on JUNE 6. The event is exclusive to LIGHTBOX members, although the actors are also coming to another separate THELMA & LOUISE event at ROY THOMSON HALL the following evening.

“It’s kind of a way for us to encourage people to become members of TIFF Bell Lightbox so they can experience a sort of red carpet of the festival all year long,” NOAH COWAN said of the bid for long term supporters.

“It’s incredibly important for our continuing growth as an organization. We like to showcase a real range of cinema and the more members you have and the more loyal they are the more chances you can take. So for us to continue driving forward on our mission we need to get more members and keep them happy.”

Most of the stellar summer lineup is open to general admission, although a $99 membership gets film fans advance ticket sales and discounted screenings.

Events include an appearance by director NORMAN JEWISON along with MOONSTRUCK star OLYMPIA DUKAKIS and screenwriter JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY at a screening of their OSCAR winning romantic comedy AUGUST 11.

Civil rights advocate RUBIN (HURRICANE) CARTER introduces another NORMAN JEWISON film THE HURRICANE on AUGUST 20. It’s based on RUBIN CARTER’S wrongful two decade incarceration and subsequent exoneration.

GENA ROWLANDS takes the stage for a look back at her legendary collaboration with JOHN CASSAVETES on JULY 14. She will also introduce screenings of A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE that same day and FACES on JULY 15.

More esoteric fare includes a tribute to FEDERICO FELLINI, retrospectives on reclusive director TERRENCE MALICK and a look at Bollywood master RAJ KAPOOR.

“This is probably our biggest group of films yet and probably our most diverse,” NOAH COWAN commented.

“I think we’ve finally hit our stride as an institution and as a building presenting the best in world cinema.”

For now, subscriptions are just a small part of LIGHTBOX revenue. The artistic director noted that much of their support comes from sponsors including Bell, which helped fund construction of the five theatre $200 million building.

The land, worth more than $22 million, was donated by the family of filmmaker IVAN REITMAN and THE DANIELS CORPORATION. More support came from city, provincial and federal governments, various foundations and private donors.

“We also are a success in terms of our earned revenue — obviously festival tickets and the tickets from people coming into TIFF Bell Lightbox. I think those are probably the top two (moneymakers). And then we get a reasonable amount of funding from government and from philanthropy.”

The recent TIM BURTON exhibition — which put on display more than 700 paintings, drawings, puppets, costumes and storyboards from the director’s career — brought in 115,000 visitors.

“We were incredibly happy with that number. For a first major exhibition in a venue like ours – a new venue – it’s unprecedented.”

NOAH COWAN said that part of his time at Cannes is being spent negotiating the possibility of crafting homegrown exhibitions that could travel the world and generate more funds.

“We are preparing two or three shows internally right now with TIFF Bell Lightbox and they’re the kind of shows that would likely find international partners.”

Other events this summer include:

– Filmmaker THOM ANDERSEN will introduce a screening of his documentary LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF on JUNE 9 and take part in a conversation and screening of four shorts on JUNE 10.

– Scholar STEVE LOFT offers a First Nations perspective on the JOHN FORD classic STAGECOACH on JUNE 12 as part of National Aboriginal Month.

– Portuguese filmmaker JOAO PEDRO RODRIGUES introduces screenings of his films from JUNE 23 to JUNE 25.

– A retrospective devoted to Italian neorealism features a talk by film aficionado FRANK BURKE before a screening of ERMANNO OLMI’S IL POSTO on AUGUST 5.

– Two of NORMAN JEWISON’S proteges, BRUCE McDONALD and CLEMENT VIRGO, will introduce screenings of ROLLERBALL on AUGUST 19 and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT on AUGUST 14.

This year’s TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL runs from SEPTEMBER 8 – 18.

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