How accurate is TIFF at predicting the best picture Oscar winner?

As one of the highest profile editions of the Toronto festival wraps, what film will take home this year's People's Choice award?

Toronto audiences have proven to be a good bellwether for films looking to go on to the Academy Awards

Actors Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper arrive on the red carpet for the film "A Star is Born" during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Sunday, September 9, 2018. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The Toronto International Film Festival comes to a close this weekend and, once again, plenty of films will be leaving the city with a lot of momentum to take them into awards season. TIFF has proven time and time again that it's the real starting gate when it comes to the Oscar race, and of the hundreds of films screened, a large handful will go on to garner nominations. But can TIFF buzz really translate into a big win on Oscar night?

This year, a significant number of works by major directors passed through Toronto and will be leaving with plenty of hype, including Damien Chazelle's First Man, Steve McQueen's Widows, Alfonso Cuarón's Roma and Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk. But it also saw the much-talked-about directorial debut from Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), some standout performances by Nicole Kidman (Destroyer), Mahershala Ali (Green Book) Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) and a final performance from Robert Redford (The Old Man and the Gun).

On Sunday, we'll find out which of films will take home the People's Choice Award, an award given out since 1978 and based entirely on audience votes. From the very early days, it's proven that TIFF audiences were a good bellwether for films looking to go on to the Academy Awards. Update:Green Book won, with Beale Street and Roma taking the runners up prizes. 

In 1981, Chariots of Fire took home the award and went on to win the best picture Oscar, which was followed up two years later by the Big Chill, which turned a People's Choice Award at TIFF into three Oscar noms, including best picture.

In the 40 years since TIFF introduced the People's Choice Award, which in 2000 was expanded to also include the first and second runners-up, seven films have gone on to win best picture: Chariots of Fire (1981), American Beauty (1999), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The King's Speech (2010), Argo (2012), 12 Years a Slave (2013) and Spotlight (2015).

That may not sound like a huge number, but compare it to the Cannes Film Festival's coveted Palme d'Or, which has only been awarded to one film that went on to win the best picture Oscar (1955's Ernest Borgnine starring Marty). Or to Venice's Golden Lion, which went to The Shape of Water last year, the first picture to win both the Golden Lion and the best picture Oscar. Mind you, both of those festivals tend to be more international/European in focus, which in turn highlights the role TIFF plays in the Oscar race even more.

On top of the seven films to be named as a People's Choice winner or runner up and also win the best picture Oscar, 14 more top TIFF films have gone on to to be Oscar nominated.

And while TIFF has became a favourite indicator for oddsmakers, it's of course not foolproof. Last year, the People's Choice went to Oscar frontrunner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, with runners up I, Tonya and Call me By Your Name also garnering several more nominations (including best picture for the latter). The Shape of Water, which screened at TIFF and was even shot in and around the city, was nowhere to be seen. Ironically enough, it's the most Toronto film to ever win the Oscar for best picture.

TIFF's People's Choice Award will be announced on Sept. 16, followed by a special free public screening. For tickets and more info, go to tiff.net.

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