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There are few places more exotic than the mind of filmmaker Tim Burton. Now, an exhibition opening Friday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox wants to take you there.

Tim Burton's dark-but-colorful, quirky style has captivated and entertained fans in movies such as "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Edward Scissorhands," "Batman," "Beetlejuice" and "Alice in Wonderland."

"People are just fascinated by what goes on in that creative mind of his," says Noah Cowan, artistic director of the TIFF Lightbox. The city's newest landmark building, it is dedicated to cinematic culture and is the permanent home to the Toronto International Film Festival.

Whether it's possible to get into a mind preoccupied with outcasts, clowns, scarecrows, striped clothing and horror actors is debatable, but the exhibit will surely give visitors a better understanding of the filmmaker's creative vision, and his past.

This blockbuster show, called simply "Tim Burton," includes more than 700 elements and is designed to appeal to casual fans and more dedicated ones alike. Among the displays are popular movie paraphernalia like the Batman masks, a life-sized Johnny Depp model dressed as Edward Scissorhands, a replica topiary from the same movie, 22-foot-tall sad little Balloon Boy and more personal items from Burton's London home. The latter include personal letters, unrealized projects, poems and even a book he had written as a teenager.

New York's Museum of Modern Art organized the exhibition, among its most popular ever, with only Picasso and Matisse having higher attendance. Redesigned for TIFF Lightbox, the exhibit follows Burton's career chronologically, beginning with "Hansel and Gretel," a rarely seen children's program produced in 1983.

Movie screenings also play an integral role in the exhibition. Diehard fans can test their devotion in the opening weekend's "Burton Blitz," when his films will be continuously screened in a single session lasting over two days. Fans with less endurance can enjoy Burton's films on their own or as double-billed screenings that pair one of the filmmaker's movies with one that influenced his work. So, for example, "Edward Scissorhands," Burton's most defining film, is paired with Delbert Mann's "Marty," from 1955, which is described as one of the screen's most poignant portraits of loneliness, insecurity and self-doubt -- common themes throughout much of Burton's work.

The pairings will certainly give audiences something to talk about, and there's no more fitting place to discuss film than at the TIFF Lightbox, a new cultural institution devoted to the appreciation of film.

Ten years in the making, the complex cannot be defined easily. In five stories, behind a glass exterior, it houses a cinema, with a concession stand and five soundproof screening rooms built to maximize both comfort and sightlines; and a gallery, showcasing thought-provoking exhibits along with the obligatory gift shop.

It could also be called an educational facility, with its reference library that houses archives from film festivals past and notable Canadian filmmakers such as Deepa Mehta and Atom Egoyan, as well as workshops, lectures and close collaborations with university film studies programs. Offices, restaurants, social spaces and a 46-story condo tower combine to create what the architect, Bruce Kuwabara, calls a "city of film."

Located downtown in the entertainment district, this cinephile haven is right in the heart of many of Toronto's most well-known cultural institutions and biggest attractions. Nearby, there's the Princess of Wales Theatre, now presenting "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" to rave reviews, as well as the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Second City, Roy Thomson Hall and the Walk of Fame, Canada's version of the Walk of Stars on Hollywood Boulevard. William Shatner, Mary Pickford, David Cronenburg, John Candy, Neil Young and other famous Canadian names adorn the sidewalk blocks in front of the venues.

Dining options abound in the neighborhood. For a true Toronto experience, there's fine dining at 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower, or at the award-winning Canoe. Elephant & Castle Pub and Kama Classical Indian are more casual options nearby.

Of course, you don't even need to leave the TIFF Lightbox to find a restaurant. The O&B Canteen and the more upscale Luma are right on the premises -- perfect places to contemplate what exactly lurks in the brilliant mind of Tim Burton.

>If you go:

TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. West (888-599-8433; www.tiff.net/timburton); the exhibition runs Friday through April 17, 2011. Tickets are $22.75,; $18.25 for students and seniors. Advance purchase is recommended.

There are several hotels within walking distance of the gallery; the Hyatt Regency Toronto in is the same block of King Street.