♦ 2017 was a record-breaking year for Toronto’s tourism industry, furthering the 6ix’s reputation as “Canada’s downtown”. While it has long been the most-visited Canadian city by domestic travellers, recent studies have shown a dramatic rise in Toronto’s appeal as an international destination over the last five years, with overall tourist spending up 47% since 2012. Findings also show significant increases in the average amount of dollars spent per visitor, on things like more luxurious accommodations, higher-end restaurants and more premium modes of transportation, suggesting that the city’s social status is rising in tandem. While there are many factors at play (such as political tensions in the U.S. driving North American tourism up north as well as the city’s progressive and culturally diverse values that naturally draw a wider variety of global visitors), the region’s booming entertainment sector is arguably the most dominant cause of the city’s growth in international appeal. Annual gatherings like the Toronto International Film Festival, sporting events like Blue Jays and Raptors games and various Mirvish Theatre productions are no doubt hot-ticket events that draw in healthy tourist crowds from year to year, but 2017 also earned the city quite a bit of global visibility due to events related to Canada 150 (giant rubber duck, anyone?) and of course, the 2017 Invictus Games, which will likely go down in history as the backdrop of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first public appearance as a couple. Let’s not forget Drake, who continued to name-drop his hometown in his music – thanks, Drizzy!
♦ With awards season well underway, it’s been a whirlwind month of red carpets and rousing speeches — and now that the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Movie Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Artios Awards have all come and gone, anticipation is at an all time high as to who will take home the highest honours of them all: The Oscars! The nominees were announced on Tuesday this week, but the Academy Awards ceremony will not take place until March 4, which leaves plenty of time for movie lovers to catch up on all the Best Picture contenders and make their own predictions. It’s been an incredible year for Toronto’s film industry and Canadians all over are celebrating the success of The Shape of Water, which is leading the Oscar race by a wide margin this year with a total of 13 nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Original Screenplay, to name just a few). Many of Toronto’s own talents are recognized for their significant roles in the creation of this film, like Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira (Best Sound Editing) and Luis Sequeira (Best Costume Design), while J. Miles Dale, who was born in Toronto and has worked with Guillermo del Toro on other locally-shot projects in the past, shares in the film’s Best Picture nomination as a producer.
♦ The property occupied by The Regent Theatre, one of Toronto’s oldest operational cinemas, is on the market for a handsome $9 million, leaving many wondering what will become of the cherished historical building. After news broke that the family who have owned the property for decades are planning to sell, many Davisville area residents voiced concerns over the potential destruction of the cinema — some simply because they have fond memories of going to the movies at The Regent as kids, and others because many buildings that citizens feel should be protected as part of the city’s heritage have been endangered by condo development in recent years. While still recognizing that growth and development are necessary for the economy to thrive in an urban setting, City Councillor Josh Matlow agrees. “It’s a community hub, and it would be a shame to see it lost […] We should be doing what great cities do,” he said, “Preserving our heritage, our story”. A meeting of local arts supporters, led by Matlow himself, will be held at the Greenwood College School next Monday to discuss what can be done to advocate for the preservation of the cinema.
♦ The Toronto Public Library is hopping aboard the digital streaming wave with a newly-adopted service called Kanopy that allows any TPL cardholder to watch popular films, documentaries and other types of video content on their computers, phones, tablets and even smart TVs, from anywhere in the world. Members are granted access to up to eight on-demand titles per month from a library of over 30,000 and growing. Kanopy originated in Australia in 2008, where it was used as a means of making educational and training videos more easily available to university libraries in DVD format. It has since gone digital, expanded to include over 3,000 institutions all over the world and is now branching out to serve metropolitan public libraries. Membership is free and requires only a Toronto Public Library card and an email address, so go sign up now!