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Toronto Intl. Film Festival

The Toronto Intl. Film Festival’s new HQ, the Bell Lightbox, is striving to make a thunderous debut that will impress curious filmgoers and industry players alike, and artistic director Noah Cowan thinks the new building will shine.

The fest marks the public launch of the Lightbox on the corner of King and John streets in downtown Toronto, but it also serves as a teaser for events to come this fall as operations ramp up over the next few weeks.

Cowan says organizers want to engage audiences in ways that other local cinemas haven’t been able to do by hosting exclusive appearances, thought-provoking discussions and content that will get cinephiles salivating.

“Over the past decade, multiplexes have added all kinds of bells and whistles, whether it’s bars (or) games for teenagers and children, and this process has been slower with the artistically minded films,” he says. “Bell Lightbox is an attempt to show the range of possible added activities and supplementary opportunities for distributors when they’re contemplating films that fall slightly outside the mainstream.”

Cowan said the building will present a taste of what’s to come starting Sept. 12 with a street party that will encourage the public to roam the facilities, which include three learning studios, a center for students and scholars, a bistro and lounge.

All five of the Lightbox cinemas will be in operation during the festival, with three of them dedicated to TIFF movie screenings and the other two for special exhibitions, including Atom Egoyan’s “8 1/2 Screens.”

For visitors on a tight schedule there are several highlights of the building Cowan recommends.

The Essential 100 exhibit showcases props, costumes, stills and other pieces of memorabilia from classic cinema that comprises the festival’s “most influential films of all time.”

After TIFF wraps, the Lightbox will host screenings and lectures modeled after the Essentials list, beginning on Sept. 23. Some of the films will include special guest speakers in a style that was inspired by the IFC Centre in New York City.

Further exhibits are also planned for the galleries, including a retrospective of Tim Burton’s work compiled by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The Lightbox will also host a series of learning programs for kids and teens, some of them free of charge.

Cowan hopes the building’s design will also impress visitors, with one of his favorite features being the “big orange box” that overhangs the three-story atrium.

“It’s actually our master control room,” he said. “It connects all of the various screens in the building and has a science-fiction quality to it. I think people will really dig that.”