The Toronto Film Society is one of Canada’s oldest film appreciation groups. It was originally formed to meet the demand for Canadian and International forgotten, banned, independent, and fringe sound and silent films, and to support their preservation and restoration. It is a volunteer run, membership driven, non-profit organization dedicated to the study of the artistic, historic, and social significance of cinema. Their curated films (from 1910-1980, of various genres) are shown on the big screen, as they were meant to be enjoyed. Some are rare archival prints not easily obtained by the general public. Their series, festivals, and events engage diverse cinephiles of all ages from Toronto and beyond.
In 1934, the National Film Society in Ottawa was founded, prompting many other film appreciation societies to spring up in cities all over Canada. Unfortunately, almost all of these early branches were suspended at the start of WWII.
Then in 1948, Dorothy and Oscar Burritt and a group of dedicated film enthusiasts established the Toronto Film Study Group (TFSG), eventually to become the Toronto Film Society. The new TFSG launched with a Summer series of screenings in the studios of Panda Photography at 321 Church Street, a converted coach house. The first regular season of the TFSG opened October 25th, 1948 at the Royal Ontario Museum Theatre with a screening of Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, double billed with the 1946 documentary Cyprus Is An Island.
In 1950, the TFSG was incorporated by Ontario Letters Patent as a non-profit, educational, and cultural association “for the study and appreciation of film as an art” and officially renamed the Toronto Film Society. The founding board of directors consisted of Gerald Pratley (President), Roy Clifton, Donald Smith, Philip Budd, Moira Armour, Dorothy Burritt, Sterling Campbell, Peter Engering, George Patterson, Benedetto Viccari and Nola Holdaway.
At the Toronto Film Society, they believe movies are best seen with like-minded film buffs, comedies are funnier in a crowded theater, and musicals are more impressive on the big screen. They also believe sharing the experience of films with others beats the experience of watching at home every time.
Today, the Toronto Film Society is dedicated to celebrating cinema and to enhancing awareness and understanding of the art of film among Toronto’s broad and diverse film going audience. We invite film lovers of all ages to join us in watching, enjoying, and learning more about classic films.
In 2017, the Toronto Film Society made the first donation of their society records to the University of Toronto Media Commons. The materials in this display are from this donation, Toronto Film Society fonds, 2017.009. This fonds is available and open to researchers, if interested please contact a member of the Media Commons Archives staff.