The Toronto International Film Festival is known for its movies and stars, but also for bringing traffic to a standstill while fans wait for a glimpse of their favourite actors.
This year, for the first time since the festival began in 1976, organizers have arranged for a four-day road closure on King Street, turning it into a pedestrian-only promenade complete with a red-carpet welcome for festival goers, between University Avenue and Peter Street.
King Street restaurateurs, who get to extend their patios beyond the narrow sidewalks onto the street, are welcoming the Festival Street initiative expecting it to boost business.
“We’re full the whole time [during TIFF],” said Tony Loschiavo, owner of Paese, an Italian restaurant. “We probably turn away as many people as we serve.”
Loschiavo said the licensed patio extension permit allows him to add 20 seats to his restaurant’s 100-person capacity.
Stargazers hoping for an autograph or picture with celebrities also expect King Street to become more crowded.
Lisa, a fan who didn’t want her last name used, was waiting outside the Princess Wales Theatre since 9 a.m. to see Robert Downey Jr. at the premiere of The Judge. She said the road closure would “bring a lot more people and that makes it harder for us to get autographs.”
“But it’s great and we should be celebrating that,” she added.
The street festival features a music stage, movie-themed micro-plays presented in collaboration with the Toronto Fringe Festival, art installations, a big chess set, seating areas and food trucks.
Traffic is being rerouted on Spadina Road and University Avenue until 6 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 8.
From Sept. 8 to Sept. 11, King Street will be down to one lane in each direction between John and Duncan streets. The road will fully re-open on Sept. 12.