The venues that screen the film festival movies range from fancy-pants proper theatres, to run-of-the-mill everday movie theatres. In my experience they are not all equal, so here’s some helpful info and a bit of advice for each one.

About Line Ups: This isn’t like going to the regular movies, people are serious about arriving early for the best seats. You’ve probably seen the throngs of moviegoers drape the streets of Toronto every September. The wait is getting longer and longer, to the point where there could be confusion about which screening the line is actually for. So I’ll give you this particular advice that’s good for Every Single Venue: The earliest patrons arrive just as the previous movie begins (that’s upwards of three hours in advance!), but as a general rule, you’ll want to get there at least an hour in advance. Bring a book or iPad and wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers. There’s rarely a place to sit down, so I bring my own stool. The best way to survive the Line Ups is to bring a friend – there’s no better way to to enjoy the festival than with a fellow cinefile at your side!

For other tidbits of helpful info, see the details for each theatre below.

Roy Thompson
Closest Subway Station: St. Andrew
The Line: Outdoors, along Simcoe Street.
Food/Drink: Although they sell beer, wine, snacks and water at concession booths, you’re not allowed to bring them into the theatre.
My Opinion & Advice: Your ticket will likely say “Balcony” on it, and unless you get an upgrade in line (which happens probably 50% of the time) you’re not allowed to sit anywhere but in the rafters. The view to the screen is still decent, but if you’re afraid of heights, this might be a problem. As there’s no chance you would have seen the actors arriving (see below), at least they usually have a live video feed of the Red Carpet.
Red Carpet: As a moviegoer you won’t get the chance to see the stars arrive as you would have been lined up on the entire opposite side of the building. If you just want to stop by to stargaze, arrive in David Pecaut square (directly west of Roy Thompson) as far advance as possible (two or three hours isn’t unreasonable).

Patient fans wait along Roy Thompson's Red Carpet areain David Pecaut Square
Patient fans wait along Roy Thompson’s Red Carpet area.

Princess of Wales
Closest Subway Station: St. Andrew
The Line: Partially Covered (if you’re in the very front), outdoors. No Seating.
Food/Drink: May have Water & Popcorn for sale.
My Opinion & Advice: I’ve only ever attended an actual musical here, never been for TIFF, but the theatre provides a great view in all seating on three levels.
Red Carpet: The distance from the street to the front doors is very small, I doubt there’s a spot for onlookers, so you might want to try standing across (the South Side of King St). Sorry moviegoers, you’ll have to wait till they take the stage.

ElginVisaElgin Theatre, Visa Screening Room
Closest Subway Station: Queen
The Line: Always. Ask. The Lines for Elgin & Winter Garden often get confused or co-mingled, don’t be afraid to ask a volunteer (don’t trust the people in the line, they could be just as confused). If you’ve got a certain kind of Visa Card (Gold or above), there’s at least the Priority Lane, and sometimes the Lounge available (but not always).
Food/Drink: They sell Popcorn and Water, and that’s it.
My Opinion & Advice: One of my favorite venues because it’s so ornate, and although its a large theatre, there are hardly any bad seats.
Red Carpet: Hands-Down, the best Red-Carpet Experience for moviegoers. After the stars arrive and do their press bits at the front of the theatre, they must walk down the extended hallway to get to the elevator (which takes them, magically, to backstage), which means you can line up along there (after you’ve gotten your friend to hold your seats, of course) and get some great photos. Although, unless it’s billed as a Premium Event (and therefore Premium Price) you’re not guaranteed celebrities.

Winter Garden Theatre
Closest Subway Station: Queen
The Line: See above, it’s along Younge Street, and not separate from the Elgin line up – be sure to ask about your specific film!
Food/Drink: Same as Elgin, Popcorn or Water.
My Opinion & Advice: Be prepared to Hike – the theatre is seven stories up. Although, patrons with disabilities can use the elevators. The theatre is very similar to the Elgin below, although perhaps a few degrees colder, maybe a pun on “Winter” garden? Bring a sweater.
Red Carpet: Sadly, the volunteers usually usher people to the theatre so there’s not the chance to catch the stars arrive, but if you just want to pop by to star-gaze, try and find a spot on the sidewalk across the street (the West Side of Younge), it’ll be too busy on the theatre side.

Viggo Mortensen signs autographs before a screening at Winter Garden Theatre.
Viggo Mortensen signs autographs before a screening at Winter Garden Theatre.

Closest Subway Station: Younge & Dundas OR College (equidistant)
The Line: My favourite line, by far.

Comfortable Midnight Madness Line-up.
Comfortable Midnight Madness Line-up.
There’s a lovely concrete planter that wraps around the building onto Church St which provides seating for nearly everyone in line. Perhaps it is because of this that I find Ryerson’s line up to be one of the friendliest, especially for Midnight Madness. The best spot in line here is right after the turn into Church Street, as you get to watch that late-comers turn the corner and see the shocked look on their face when they see how much longer the line really is.
Food/Drink: Ryerson has one of the strictest policies – No Food or Drink allowed (only water).
My Opinion & Advice: Although I love the line, and the general atmosphere that Ryerson provides (it’s not too giant, not too small), I hate the near-flat seating. As someone who is short I’ve been burned by even a slightly taller person sitting in front of me, and been unable to see subtitles. Now, I exclusively sit on the left or right-side isle of the outer rows. Also – Ladies Bathroom Hack – there are only a few stalls in the main washroom that everyone uses, and therefore always a line. Instead of turning right at the bottom of the stairs, go left – there’s a secret 2-stall bathroom just beyond the pool (and even another further down).
Red Carpet: Ryerson often hosts star-studded screenings, and it’s one of the best places to get photos because it’s covered. Although, the area of onlookers is small (the press area is huge), and cannot be seen from the line-up.

Closest Subway Station: Osgoode Station
The Line: Ticket holders line ups are usually right outside the theatres, or in the upstairs lobby. It’s indoors, which is nice, and most people sit on the floor till about 15 minutes before they let you in.
Food/Drink: This movie theatre’s got everything. Popcorn, Pop, Candy, Hot Dogs, Pizza, Dippin Dots, Fancy Popcorn and even a Bar!
My Opinion & Advice: It’s just like going to the regular movies, only a much longer wait.
Red Carpet: This theatre usually shows the 2nd or 3rd screenings of films, you’re not going to get a Red-Carpet event, but that doesn’t mean the Director or stars won’t show up for a Q&A after (I’ve seen it happen!).

BloorCinemaBloor Hot Docs Cinema
Closest Subway Station: Bathurst
The Line Up: Outdoors, down the street. No seating.
Food/Drink: Regular cinema grub, popcorn, pop, candy, etc.
My Opinion & Advice: The theatre was recently refurbished, and in doing so they added a larger screen. If you’re seated in the back part of the lower level, or certain parts of the mezzanine, the screen is actually cut off a the top (annoying) or bottom (goodbye subtitles).
Red Carpet: They don’t usually do Red Carpet events here, but if the filmmakers or stars arrive, it’s just steps from the street to the front door, you’re not likely to get a glimpse till they’re on stage.

Isabel Bader Theatre
Closest Subway Station: Museum
The Line: Outdoors, down the street. No Seating.
Food/Drink: As far as I recall there was no food, however there may be a concession selling water.
My Opinion & Advice: I’ve only been here once, which is a shame because it was a very nice imitate venue, an absolutely perfect place for an extended¬† Q&A (See our Programme Guide for more details on Contemporary World Speakers.)
Red Carpet: Rarely there are Red Carpet events, but if so, only the first few people in line would be able to see the entrance, and there’s no place for onlookers to stand.

Jackman Hall, AGO
Closest Subway Station: St. Patrick
The Line: Outdoors, partially covered (if same location as last year). No seating.
Food/Drink: None
My Opinion & Advice: I’ve been to this theatre twice, only once for TIFF. It’s teeny-tiny, and would be a great place for Q&As. It will be the host for all video & art pieces in the Wavelengths Programme (read about it in our Programme Guide)
Red Carpet: N/A

TIFF Bell Lightbox Lightbox
Closest Subway Station: St. Andrew
The Line: I’ve seen them outside, in the lobby, and upstairs. Could be anywhere, really.
Food/Drink: Thankfully they sell regular movie-theatre treats, and some upscale baked goods. There’s also Canteen or Luma on-site if you want to grab dinner before or after.
My Opinion & Advice: The actual theatres are really fantastic, good stadium seating, and great set up for Q&As too (they always have a Mic). Bring a sweater though – we’ve nicknamed the Lightbox “The Icebox”.
Red Carpet: N/A

What’s Changed? TIFF doesn’t list Cineplex Younge & Dundas (Formerly AMC), which is a real shame because it was one of my favorite venues. Right on the subway line, and most of the time during daytime screenings, they let you Line Up by sitting in an empty theatre (which is a huge improvement over the Food Court Level Dungeon Room they had in previous years.) However, they haven’t added any new cinemas. I hope this doesn’t indicate fewer screenings (perhaps they took over more screens at Scotia?). Patience is key, we’ll just have to wait for the full schedule – only four more sleeps!

Up next on Tiff Tips: Festival Restaurant Guide, Stay Tuned!