Coronavirus: Smaller Toronto film festival will be screened online, at drive-ins

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TORONTO, CANADA (AFP) - The Toronto film festival is going ahead in September despite the coronavirus pandemic, organisers announced on Wednesday (June 24), but red carpets will be virtual and far fewer movies will be premiered.

"The pandemic has hit TIFF hard," Toronto International Film Festival co-head Cameron Bailey said in a statement. But it will persevere "to bring the very best in film to the broadest possible audience."

"We're excited to present thoughtful, high-impact programming this September that reflects our belief that there's no stopping great storytelling," he said.

North America's largest film festival - which has become a bellweather for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors - usually screens 300 to 400 feature and short films from dozens of countries each year.

Only 50 new feature films will be in the lineup for its 45th edition, tailored for the global health crisis, September 10-19.

The rapid global spread of the new coronavirus forced major production companies to halt filming, and other top silver-screen festivals to postpone or cancel their 2020 editions, including Cannes, usually held in May.

Earlier this week, the Toronto film festival cut 31 staff as its revenues were forecast to plunge.

Over the first five days, the festival's full slate will be screened with social distancing measures in place at local movie theatres and drive-ins.

This will be contingent on meeting public health guidelines.

Titles revealed on Wednesday include Bruised, the debut film from director Halle Berry, Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round, and Naomi Kawase's True Mothers.

Guests such as Ava DuVernay, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuaron, Claire Denis, Viggo Mortensen, Zhang Ziyi and Denis Villeneuve are expected to appear on virtual red carpets and take part in interactive online talks.

For the first time in its history, the festival will also launch a digital platform to show movies.

Over 10 days, it will host screenings, as well as talks and special events online.

Thousands of industry professionals looking to scoop up film distribution rights and rub shoulders with the world's top or up-and-coming directors and actors, meanwhile, will be asked to move those meetings online.

Press screenings will also go digital.

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