Toronto International Film Festival group lays off 31 full-time staffers

Organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival have announced they are laying off 31 employees, a 17 per cent cut of the organization’s full-time staff, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision is in response to the “devastating” impact COVID-19 has had on regular operations, co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“We wish there was another way,” they said. “All TIFF employees are respected team members and this is a heartbreaking decision.”

The company, which hosts a prestigious annual film festival every September and screens movies and offers other programming year-round, has forecasted its 2020 revenue will be 50 per cent less than 2019. 

Tuesday’s announcement comes after TIFF cut 15 employees in November after what it called “a comprehensive review” of its five-year strategic plan.

Mahershala Ali greets fans at the Toronto International Film Festival in Sept. 2018. In addition to the two-week annual festival each September, TIFF offers movie screenings and other programming year-round. (Reuters)

To aid with its current financial difficulties, the company has enacted a host of measures, according to the statement. These include cutting salaries at the executive, senior management and management levels, cancelling discretionary projects, reducing expenses, launching a new fundraising campaign and tapping into the federal pandemic wage subsidy where applicable.

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on every Canadian organization that welcomes audiences in large numbers. With our cinemas at TIFF Bell Lightbox temporarily closed since March, our festival affected by restrictions on travel and large gatherings and a projected slow return to normal, TIFF has felt these effects,” Vicente and Bailey said.

“As a non-profit organization, we carefully considered how to manage the loss to our operating budget, while preserving as many jobs as possible and ensuring a sustainable business model.”

In a joint statement, Toronto International Film Festival co-heads Cameron Bailey, left, and Joana Vicente called the staff layoffs ‘a heartbreaking decision.’ (Nigel Hunt/CBC)