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TIFF 2012: By the numbers

Will Perkins
Wide Screen
September 16, 2012

Even for the most seasoned movie lover or jaded critic, the Toronto International Film Festival is a lot to take in. What began in 1976 as a modest-sized "Festival of Festivals" designed to screen movies that had been hits at international film fests has steadily grown into one of the busiest and most important events of its kind in the world.

See also: More coverage of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

With the 37th annual edition of TIFF wrapping up on Sept. 16, we take a look at the nuts and bolts of the fest past and present. It's TIFF 2012 by the numbers.

Celebs, movies, and more
Over 750 actors and filmmakers attend TIFF each year, with highlights of the 2012 festival including red carpet visits by Ryan Gosling, Tom Hanks, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kristen Stewart, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Redford, and many others.

But it's not just about who shows up -- it is a film festival, after all! A whopping 372 movies (289 feature length films and 83 shorts) from 72 countries were shown at TIFF 2012. That's 36 more films than screened at last year's festival, but still a far cry from the record of 460 movies that screened at the 1984 edition of the fest. A total of 10,250 movies have screened at the festival since 1976. That's a lot of movies!

See also: What are TIFF 2012's major box office contenders?

Less than 10 per cent of the films submitted to the festival actually end up screening in Toronto. TIFF's programmers had their work cut out for them in 2012, sorting through an insane 4,143 film submissions (3,191 international, 952 Canadian) and boiling that list down to 372 flicks.

Those that make the cut are in luck. Having your film selected to play at Toronto is an honour unto itself. TIFF is renowned worldwide as a showcase for emerging filmmakers and new films. Seventy-five films at the 2012 fest are from first-time directors and 146 of the movies are world premieres.

The festival is also a chance for homegrown fare to take centre stage. Including co-productions, 32 Canadian feature films (20 which were world premieres) and 47 Canuck short movies were part of TIFF 2012. That's Can-Con you can depend on.

Seriously sore butts
With so many movies playing at TIFF every year and only ten days to see them all, where do people find the time? The longest film at TIFF 2012 was Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's TV miniseries-turned-feature film "Penance" at 270 minutes (or four-and-a-half hours). "Penance" is certainly a long movie, but it pales in comparison to the lengthiest film to ever play TIFF, the 900-minute long "The Story of Film: An Odyssey." That's 15 hours!

And the shortest film at this year's fest? Thomas Demand's short film "Pacific Sun" takes that prize at just under two minutes long. In total, the film lineup at TIFF 2012 is 30,918 minutes long (up from 28,526 minutes last year) — that's 515 hours or three weeks worth of movies.

See also: Lucrative deals made behind-the-scenes at TIFF 2012

Thankfully the festival has 32 screens across the city to show all these films and an army of volunteers (nearly 2,300 in all) to make the whirlwind schedule run smoothly. There is a reason that the festival thanks their volunteers before each and every screening: TIFF volunteers are what make the festival work, logging a monstrous 54,000 hours of service between 2000 and 2010 alone.

The future
Limited time and venue space being what they are, the number of film screenings and attendees (the TIFF 2010 had an estimated 260,000 public and industry admissions) at the Toronto International Film Festival can't really increase that much going forward. However, where the festival does have room to grow (and compete with the big European film fests) is on the film buying side.

See also: Why isn't TIFF's People's Choice Award a bigger deal?

The festival put international films squarely in the sights of North American distributors with this year's Asian Film Summit and Mumbai-focused City-to-City programme. TIFF 2012 was also the site of more than 30 major U.S. distribution deals for films that came into the fest without concrete North American release plans. Big pickups include "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Stories We Tell," "Thanks for Sharing," and "Spring Breakers." Toronto still can't rival Cannes' film market for total movie buying, but in terms of awards contenders getting bought up, TIFF is slowly catching up.

We can't wait to see what the Toronto International Film Festival has in store for 2013!

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