Each year, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) transforms the city into a bustling hub of glamour and film premieres, a transformation that few experience as intensely as nightclub mogul Charles Khabouth. The owner of Bisha Hotel and various upscale restaurants and clubs, Khabouth is a mainstay within the film festival’s social scene, often playing host to renowned actors such as Margot Robbie, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Javier Bardem.
Anticipating another vibrant season, Khabouth predicts this year’s TIFF will take a slightly more tranquil rhythm, a casual score of eight out of ten on the entertainment spectrum, rather than the pulsating ten it used to register. He made this prediction a week before the festival’s September 7 launch.
The mild expectation stems from the dual strikes that Hollywood has witnessed recently. Productions and press junkets for film and television came to a standstill over the spring and summer, following disputes between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America. Consequently, the red carpets at TIFF may see fewer celebrities gracing them than usual.
Unpredictability permeates the atmosphere as TIFF has refrained from disclosing a guest list or predicted attendance and media accreditation numbers. The usual customer influx during the festival period is therefore uncertain for local hospitality businesses including restaurants, hotels, car hire, and security firms.
Nevertheless, with foreign and Canadian stars not constrained by the strike policies, optimism remains for a decent turnout, despite the likelihood of thinner crowds as Hollywood influencers choose to stay at home.
It is reported that the festival attracts over 700,000 visitors to Toronto and spurs more than $114 million in economic activity in the region, according to last year’s statistics by the federal government. For local businesses like the Mexican eatery Milagro, this period is regarded as the most hectic of the year.
Evidence of this year’s quieter TIFF is already noticeable for Arturo Anhalt, founder of Milagro, who claims reservation and party bookings are trickling in slower than previous years. Similarly, Katherine Johannson from Forthspace Hospitality Group has noticed a reduction in American group bookings due to the strike, which will likely result in smaller gatherings compared to last year.
Contrastingly, at Petros82, preparations are underway for the first six days of TIFF where they anticipate being fully booked. Erin Breckbill from Peter & Paul’s Hospitality Group attributes this level of activity to their role as one of TIFF’s official hospitality partners. The bank’s plan for the space includes a DJ set from basketball star Shaquille O’Neal and a talk with ‘Rustin’ film director George C. Wolfe. Despite acknowledging that not every hospitality business will reap the same rewards this year, Breckbill remains optimistic, particularly following recent news from TIFF unveiling the names of several A-list actors set to attend the festival.
While this year’s TIFF carries an air of uncertainty due to the Hollywood strikes, there’s still an evident buzz of anticipation and the promise of another unforgettable chapter in the Toronto International Film Festival story.