There was a great deal of speculation when the Toronto International Film Festival returned in full force last fall after two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the world of cinema is facing an even bigger question: Will the experience of watching in-person films ever be the same?
Canadian journalist and podcast host Paul Wells sat down with TIFF’s CEO, Cameron Bailey, on Jan. 25 to discuss the future of film.
“So long as cinema can keep its boundaries flexible, I think that it will stay alive and thriving,” Bailey told the Toronto Observer afterward.
When TIFF returned to an in-person experience in 2022, there was an immense amount of uncertainty about whether or not the world was ready to gather in such large groups again. Bailey said the success of the event would be defined by whether or not people would come back. They did.
More than 400,000 people walked through King Street West, the heart of the festival, which made for a remarkable return, he said.
Bailey explained that the in-person experience of coming together to watch a film is irreplaceable because movies shape emotional reactions.
“When people aren’t gathering together [and are] watching movies alone, their reactions are different,” he said.
“If we don’t have people gathering together, if we’re not encouraging people to do that, we don’t have a purpose.”
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Bailey told Wells that change in the world of film is inevitable but that we, as a society, will always find a way to adapt.
“It’s more than just the delivery system,” he said. “It’s an art form that exists in time.”
He said that in the future, the ways in which films are presented to the world may change, but the ways in which the world reacts to films will not.