Legendary film director Martin Scorsese has warned that cinema is coming to be seen as "comfort food" as he said the medium will "always be much more than a diversion".

The American filmmaker was speaking during the Toronto Film Festival, which this year is taking place with a combination of physical and virtual events due to the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the film industry, with box office takings plummeting after cinemas around the world closed their doors to halt the spread of Covid-19.

That has led to the erosion of the sanctity of the theatrical release, with more studios opting to launch films digitally.

Meanwhile, streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ have reported huge rises in subscriber numbers.

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

The 77-year-old director - whose CV includes Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodfellasCasino and The Irishman - said cinema was in danger of being "marginalised and devalued" in an apparent dig at at-home viewing.

Speaking via a video message, he said: "The fact that film festivals are continuing to happen, improvising, adapting, making it all work somehow, is very moving to me.

"Because in the press and in the popular culture, what's happening, it's becoming sadly common to see cinema marginalised and devalued and in this situation categorised as a form of comfort food.

"So to celebrate its very existence is all the more important and necessary. Because we can never remind people enough that this remarkable art form has always been and will always be much more than a diversion. Cinema, film, movies, at its best is a source of wonder and inspiration."

Anthony Hopkins

Scorsese was among the speakers at the Toronto Film Festival's virtual awards gala, where winners included Anthony Hopkins and Kate Winslet, who both won TIFF Tribute Actor awards.

The 82-year-old Hopkins stars in The Father alongside Olivia Colman. In a video message from his home in Los Angeles, he said he was "astonished" to still be working.

And he dedicated his award to frontline workers, adding: "I want to particularly thank the frontline workers, first responders all over the world, this award is yours. I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart."

Winslet is starring in romantic drama Ammonite alongside Saoirse Ronan.