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By Michael Czobit

The box office is open, the red carpet is out and there are plenty of long lines to join: The Ryerson Theatre is the newest home of the Toronto International Film Festival. It may still sport old, cramped seats, but the theatre has had a technological make over.

The festival’s technical team added new sound and film projection systems. “The theatre needed a little bit of work and little bit of polish.Now it’s state of the art,” said Collin Geddes, festival programmer of the TIFF’s Midnight Madness since 1997.

With the improvements, the Ryerson Theatre is one of the 11 venues for the TIFF, which runs until Sept. 18. There are 55 screenings scheduled at the theatre. Adding the theatre to the festival’s venues came out of necessity.

“With the unfortunate demise of the Uptown Theatre,” Geddes said, “we needed a big house to screen films.”

The Uptown Theatre had been shut down and sold to a condo developer in the spring of 2003.During its demolition, a portion of the theatre collapsed in December 2003.

Festival organizers chose the Ryerson Theatre for its 1,200 seating capacity, which is 300 more than the Uptown’s. One moviegoer, Alexander Rocco, said he liked the size and location of the theatre.”It isn’t on a busy street and it’s easy to find parking.”

Rocco saw Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.The film is part of the Midnight Madness program that is being held at the Ryerson Theatre. For 10 nights during the festival, a movie will be screened at midnight.

All but one of the films are being screened at the Ryerson Theatre. Geddes selects all the films for Midnight Madness. He starts looking at films for the program in the spring and continues through the summer with films submitted for Midnight Madness. Geddes also tracks down films he’s heard about that are possible Madness material.

“We’ve shown horror, action, documentaries about porn stars, about rock stars, black comedies.You can’t pin-point a Midnight Madness film,” he said.

This year, Geddes watched around 100 films and narrowed the field to 10. He said an important factor when he judges films is not putting anyone to sleep.

“At that time, some people have already seen four or five films that day.They need a jolt, to be woken up,” Geddes said. He also seeks out films that he calls, “foreign exotic gems”-films that probably won’t make it to screens anywhere else.

Geddes said the overall film festival experience can’t be beat. “To be with a crowd waiting for a film, to see that film and then be able to talk about the film with the person who made it, it’s the best.”

For ticket information, visit www.bell.ca/filmfest.

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