2021 Sundance Film Festival cancels plans for in-person events in Park City

Festival will expand its online offerings for Utah moviegoers.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) The Sundance Film Festival kicks into high gear along Main street in Park City on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Festival organizers announced on Dec. 30, 2020, that hopes for any in-person events at the 2021 festival have been dashed.

Organizers of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival have dashed the hopes for any in-person Utah screenings for the mostly online event in January.

Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute announced Wednesday that it is canceling plans to hold any in-person events in Park City, the festival’s home for the past four decades. Instead, the festival “will be pivoting our planned indoor screenings at The Ray to our online platform.”

The cancellation was made “in consideration of the overall public health situation in Utah — a month out from the festival,” the institute said in a news release.

“The way we gather will be different but we will still gather with those in Utah, those who planned to travel to Park City, and even wider audiences now, to celebrate vital storytelling and meet artists and their new work,” the institute’s release said.

As part of that gathering, the festival also announced a series of online events tailored to Utahns during the festival, which runs online from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.

The entire festival slate — 71 feature films, 50 short films, plus New Frontier virtual-reality and augmented-reality offerings, and live question-and-answer sessions — will be available to stream online, with scheduled premiere screenings and follow-up screenings available in 24-hour blocks. The online Festival Village will launch on Jan. 7, with activities usually available to credential holders.

The Utah-centered events online include:

• A free screening of “Life In a Day 2020,” a YouTube-produced documentary that compiles footage submitted from around the world on a single day: July 25, 2020.

• Free and discounted tickets and passes for moviegoers between 18 and 25 years old, through Utah colleges and universities, as well as more than 200 community organizations across the state.

• Expanded access for high school teachers to screen a festival film to their students, whether in the physical classroom or learning from home. The screening will include a live question-and-answer sessions with the director and members of the film team.

• High school students can also take part in “The Art of the Short,” a collection of nine short films from the festival’s lineup.

Salt Lake Film Society, the arts nonprofit that operates the Broadway Centre Cinemas and Tower Theatre, will host an online-only program of talks and events featuring Utah artists and organizations.

• Sundance will continue to partner with the Utah Film Center, and its Tumbleweeds Film Festival for Kids, by offering a link in the Festival Village to Tumbleweeds films online. (Tumbleweeds has been aiding Sundance in programming the festival’s kids section, which was not included in the 2021 festival’s reduced slate.)

The Ray and Salt Lake Film Society are two of more than 30 “satellite screen” partners that the festival announced in early December, where organizers had pinned tentative hopes for in-person events. Festival organizers said they are going to evaluate each location, case by case, to see if live events can be held safely.

Tickets and passes for online streaming of Sundance films go on sale Thursday, Jan. 7.

Editor’s note: Sean P. Means’ wife is an employee of the Utah Film Center.