There is something magical about a crowd gathering in a park as the sun sets, huddled together on blankets or lying on the grass, attention fixed on the big screen ahead, eagerly waiting for the show to start. This is the atmosphere you can expect at the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show (TOPS), a quintessential summer event in Toronto. 

Since 2011, TOPS has offered free outdoor film screenings in parks across the city, bringing together thousands of movie lovers all summer long. 

This season you can look forward to 21 days of film screenings across 4 Toronto parks, kicking off on June 19 at Fort York National Historic Site with 9 to 5—a classic 80s comedy starring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton as three office secretaries plotting against their misogynistic boss. 

The workplace theme continues through this year’s programme,“On The Job”, which will shine a light on shift and gig workers, unionizers, whistle blowers, adrenaline-fueled field workers, and a slew of unconventional jobs. Each screening will be paired with a short film from a Canadian filmmaker—an excellent opportunity to discover local talent!

We caught up with Emily Reid, Artistic & Executive Director of TOPS, to hear her top picks for this year’s festival and more on the legacy of the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show. Plus, see below for the full lineup of films you can watch at TOPS 2024!

How would you describe the energy amongst the audience at a TOPS event?

Warmth. That might be a corny answer, but I think it’s really a special thing that people come to TOPS events to ~chill out~ and let the day slow down. So many of us are extremely busy, all the time, and even when we’re socializing, we’re rushing around. So one of the things I love most about TOPS evenings is when people arrive early, set up a picnic, and wait patiently for the sun to set. It’s a warm environment full of joy and togetherness.

What do you find special about bringing together film and outdoor public spaces?

Seeing excellent films outdoors fosters such site-specific memories. I remember the date of every past TOPS screening because I can remember what the weather was like that night, or how the audience laughed at a specific moment, or if there were random (and unnerving, to be quite honest!) fireworks in the background of the park. So many of the films people see at TOPS stick with them as part and parcel with the environment in which they saw them. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in our history as an organization: the vault of cherished memories that linger with people years later.

What are you most looking forward to with this year’s programming?

Out of Sight and Chungking Express. I have a checklist of films that I adore and have been waiting years to find the right opportunity to include them in our programme (which is always curated to an annual theme). Bucket list films, you can call them. And these two films have been sitting on that list for 14 years, before I had any idea that this little outdoor cinema series I started in 2011 would become a Toronto cultural institution. These are films that I think are perfect and were so formative to me as a baby cinephile when I saw them (in 1998 and 2004 respectively), and they are such charismatic crowd-pleasers. So I hope huge audiences come out and enjoy them with me!

When you look back on more than a decade of TOPS, what stands out as its biggest impact?

Speaking of baby cinephiles, I love it when they come to TOPS events. Our programming is geared typically to adults (with the exception of our Bell Manor Park series, which is catered to very young and not-so-young audiences alike) but there are few things that make me happier than when parents bring mature 8 or 9 year-olds. To watch their faces glow at their first outdoor screening of a classic film like a Rear Window or Nosferatu or A League of Their Own – that’s magic. Some of those kids are 20-somethings now, and I’d love to know if they’re still coming out to our shows. I hope they still cherish those childhood memories at the outdoor picture show.

Here are all the films you can look forward to at the 2024 Toronto Outdoor Picture Show:

Fort York National Historic Site 

  • 9 to 5 (June 19)
  • Sorry to Bother You (June 20)
  • Nope (June 21)
  • Twister (June 22)
  • Out of Sight (June 23)
  • Backspot (June 24)
  • Wet Hot American Summer (June 25)

Christie Pits Park 

  • Modern Times (July 7) 
  • Empire Records (July 14)
  • Someone Lives Here (July 21)
  • Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (July 28) 
  • Sister Act (August 4)
  • I Like Movies (August 11)
  • Perfect Days (August 18) 
  • Surprise closing night film (August 25)

Corktown Common 

  • Legally Blonde (July 11)
  • Fire of Love (August 1)
  • Chungking Express (July 18) 
  • Inside Man (July 25)

Bell Manor Park

  • Kinky Boots (August 15)
  • Mary Poppins (August 16)
  • Monsters, Inc (August 17)

For more information, visit the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show website.