Toronto, September 5, 1997

The Toronto Film Festival works a little differently from other festivals as regards class distinctions in the audience. There are a variety of “levels” of tickets for the Gala screenings, ensuring that the “Gold” patrons, those affiliated with the major sponsors, get the priority seats. They get to enter first; then there are then those who bought a book of tickets for the week; then there are those who bought for the individual screening; and finally, the stragglers, who purchase rush seats, scramble for what’s left after everyone else has been seated. There are two Galas each night, held in the distinctively bulbous Roy Thompson hall (usually the home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra), with the earlier gala reserved usually for the bigger Hollywood films.

This hierarchical ticket arrangement allows for some heated arguments surrounding the priority of admission. Many well-dressed folk become downright savage with their insistence on being admitted before all the others in the (long) line. During last night’s screening of “L.A. Confidential”, for example, there were many instances of screaming patrons demanding to be admitted with priority. That, coupled with the late arrival of the “talent” and subsequent delay in the starting time, allowed for the truly embarrassing scene of well-coifed cinephiles making absurd demands on the harried (yet resolutely friendly) Festival staff.

The second film of the evening, John Sayles’ “Men With Guns”, was delayed by over an hour. The crowd, though, seemed to be much better behaved than the earlier patrons. The delay seemed to be accepted by those in line with a polite demeanor that is more in line with the stereotype of the considerately considerate Canadian.

As a bonus, those patiently waiting in the rear sections of the line, as it stretched back around the south side of the building, were treated to several cameo appearances by the exiting stars of the first film. Kevin Spacey was the most agreeable of the lot, signing autographs and bantering with the crowd. He rolled down the window of his limo as it left, waving and shouting out that, yes, he has been enjoying his stay in Toronto.

Much more taciturn was the response of the other “stars”. Kim Basinger and her husband Alec Baldwin slipped into their ostentatious robin’s-egg-blue Mercedes limo with nary a sound, as Danny De Vito crept into his own waiting black stretch, barely acknowledging the crowd around him. With flash bulbs going off and ironic conversation in line about the late Princess Diana and her own relationship with the media and their cameras, the cars snuck off into the Toronto night.