Celebrities, snowfall usher in 45th annual Sundance Film Festival

Traffic sits at a standstill on Main Street of Park City. Park City has been home to the Sundance Film Festival since 1981. (Marissa Lundeen)

Eighteen degrees and snowfall could not keep film aficionados from lining Park City streets on Thursday, Jan. 19 to celebrate the first day of the Sundance Film Festival.

This year marks Sundance’s return to in-person viewings and events after being held virtually for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although events are being held in person, online viewing is an option for most films.

The festival’s first day premiered films such as the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize winner “The Pod Generation,” starring Emilia Clarke and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and “Sometimes I Think About Dying,” starring Daisy Ridley and Dave Merheje. Tickets to both films sold out quickly, as well as tickets to the horror film “Run Rabbit Run,” which debuted at midnight.

One group of festival goers from Paraguay and Colombia were eager to see the new films but most excited by the possibility of seeing celebrities, a common occurrence at the star-studded festival.

“I love how easy it is to see so many famous people on the streets. We don’t have that in our country,” Yohana Caceres, a Colombia native who is attending the festival for her third time, said.

Festival attendees Chabelly Benitez, Yohana Caceres, Sol Pereira, Paz Ibarra and Katya Cuenca smile for a photo. Festival goers try to stay warm as they wait for events. (Marissa Lundeen)

While many attendees come for pleasure, others have to work while they enjoy. The cast and crew of the 110 feature-length films that come from 28 different countries are busy attending press lines and answering questions about their films throughout the ten-day festival.

Other attendees, such as Lauren Horne, are here for their respective companies.

“I work for Delta on the backseat screen entertainment, so I’m on the team that picks all the shows and movies that go onboard. We’re here scoping everything out and to see what trends we should look out for,” Horne said.

Horne, a first-time festival goer, is from Florida and is enjoying the snow and winter activities Park City offers. She is also excited about the prospect of encountering some celebrities at various parties she will be attending.

The film festival’s attendees, filmmakers and volunteers flood Park City for its ten-day duration and is a major contributor to the local economy. Businesses in the area prepare for an influx of customers and late work hours during festival week.

The Egyptian Theater is located on Main Street in Park City. The Egyptian is one of the many Park City theaters screening films for the Sundance Film Festival. (Marissa Lundeen)

La Niche, a gift shop and espresso bar located on Main Street not far from the Egyptian Theater, has extended its hours and hired additional help to accommodate the film festival crowds.

“We are expecting a lot of people because of Sundance, especially because the festival hasn’t been in-person for the past two years,” La Niche employee Mia Maggi said. “We are hiring more people as there are more customers coming in late at night. Usually, we close up at 6 p.m. but now we’re staying open until 9 p.m. It’s really exciting!”

In addition to boosting the local economy, Darl Larsen, a BYU professor of theatre and media arts, said the festival also brings thousands of film industry members and viewers to Utah, many for the first time.

Larsen also credits the festival for being a place where independent films can find a first audience without having to rely on traditional marketing against larger films in first-run theaters.

“That being said, these films often get purchased for distribution — they will be ‘discovered’ thanks to the Sundance Film Festival,” Larsen said.

BYU graduate Luis Fernando Puente’s short film “I Have No Tears, and I Must Cry” will be screening as part of the short film program at the festival.

The Sundance Film Festival will run every day until Sunday, Jan. 29th. Although festival tickets are sold out, tickets for individual screenings of specific films can still be purchased on the festival website.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email