Sundance Film Festival goes virtual with nationwide screenings

Ari Davis
Thousands of people flock to the Sundance Film Festival each year to attend films in theaters like the Egyptian Theatre. This year, film enthusiasts can enjoy Sundance virtually or in one of the participating theaters throughout the country. (Arthur Mola/Invision/AP, File)

Sundance Film Festival 2021 is being pulled off during the global pandemic by going virtual and relocating in-person viewings to arthouse theaters across the country.

The festival opened Jan. 28 with a welcome from actor and director Robert Redford and will continue through Feb. 3.

Sundance is keeping the spirit of Park City’s Main Street alive virtually this year. Each morning is kicked off online with Sundance Dailies, where festival director Tabitha Jackson fills viewers in with the big events of the day. Audible is presenting the Cinema Café where people can participate in conversation online about hot-button topics led by thought-leaders. The festival will close off with a virtual Awards Ceremony where viewers can see which films and directors receive top honors and awards.

There are also opportunities across the country to safely experience Sundance in person. Sundance partnered with over 25 art house cinemas across the country to bring the festival to theaters locally in cities like Nashville, New Orleans, San Francisco and Minneapolis.

SIE Theater in Denver is presenting live screenings of Sundance films so it can give its community the festival experience.

“I worked with the Sundance programmers to identify films that would work for our audience, so it was a collaborative process,” said Denver Film’s artistic director Matthew Campbell. “We definitely have films that are curtailed to our audience.”

Creating this in-person Sundance experience was not simple. Denver Film has been working with Sundance since October 2020. Tickets are being sold in groups of ten. Groups are made up of friends and family and they will have space to socially distance.

“We are definitely following local, state and CDC guidelines as part of the experience we are providing,” Campbell said. “It is in person but it is very limited.”

Salt Lake Film Society is also involved with Sundance in a unique way this year. Rather than presenting the films in-person, the Salt Lake Film Society will participate in a program called Beyond Film. There will be four panel discussions with filmmakers that audiences can tune into virtually on Sundance portals.

“We normally are showing films in our venues for Sundance every year. We allocate four screens to do that out of our seven, but this year we are participating through the satellite screens program that Sundance has set up,” said Barb Guy, the film society’s director of public relations and marketing. “We have learned some lessons that we will never let go of.”

The entire festival is currently online including live premieres and Q&A’s. Tickets to a single film can be purchased online for as low as $15. For more details on how to enjoy Sundance Film Festival check out its website.

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