8:48 AM PDT 9/9/2020
The U-turn coincides with a surge in new coronavirus cases in Ontario and a social media backlash.
The Toronto Film Festival has changed its controversial policy on face masks in its theaters on the eve of its virtual 2020 edition.
TIFF will now require fest-goers to wear face coverings during all in-person movie viewing at its Bell Lightbox multiplex. Fest organizers cited a surge in new COVID-19 cases in Ontario for the U-turn on an earlier mask-optional policy that allowed fest-goers to decide if they wear a face covering “when seated in-cinema.”
The change of tack also follows The Hollywood Reporter on Sept. 8 reporting on TIFF’s mask optional policy for movie screenings, which had raised concerns, including on social media, for an increase in COVID-19 infections in the city.
“…Due to recent public health reports indicating that there has been an increase in COVID cases in the GTA, we have made the decision that for the safety, comfort and peace-of-mind of our audiences, TIFF Bell Lightbox will close its concession stands, thereby eliminating a point of contact for patrons,” the festival said in a statement on Tuesday night.
“As no food or beverage is being consumed, TIFF will require that audience members’ masks remain in place for the entirety of the time they are in TIFF Bell Lightbox,” TIFF added.
The festival’s reversal brings Toronto into line with the Venice Film Festival and additionally with major U.S. cinema chains that have mandated face masks during movie screenings, except when eating and sipping drinks, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
And TIFF is also conforming with Toronto City bylaws that has required the wearing of a face mask or covering in indoor public space.