Omicron variant prompts Slamdance Film Festival to go online-only

Sundance Film Festival is still planning a hybrid format, with in-person events in Utah and online screenings.

(Slamdance Film Festival) Australian "slab wave" surfer Kerby Brown is profiled in Bentley Dean's documentary "Facing Monsters," one of the 28 feature films chosen to screen at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival — which is canceling its in-person events at Park City's Treasure Mountain Inn due to the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus and will now go entirely online.

The Sundance Film Festival will have Park City all to itself in January — after the rival Slamdance Film Festival canceled its in-person events for 2022 and moved the entire event online.

“Although we are disappointed that we won’t be able to participate in the communal, in-person experience, we know we can create a unique festival experience for all of our filmmakers through Slamdance’s online platform,” Peter Baxter, Slamdance’s president and co-founder, said in a statement released just before Christmas.

Festival organizers blamed concerns about the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus for prompting the move to online only for the second year in a row.

Slamdance’s organizers are “looking forward to utilizing the expertise we’ve already gained in attracting a global audience, building upon our accessibility goals and pushing the boundaries of what a decentralized festival can be,” Baxter said.

Slamdance, founded as an upstart alternative to the larger Sundance festival, will run online at slamdance.com from Jan. 27 to Feb. 6. That’s a week later than the festival was scheduled to start in Park City, Jan. 20-23. Organizers said they will use that extra week to move the festival’s planned screenings, Q&As and panel discussions to an online format.

Sundance — which went online-only for its 2021 edition — announced before Christmas that it is requiring all attendees to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, if eligible. Sundance, which will run Jan. 20-30, will also run its theaters at limited capacity, ban food and drink from theaters and require all theatergoers to wear masks at all times indoors.

A Sundance spokesperson said Monday that the festival is sticking to its plan for in-person screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at the Sundance Mountain Resort, as well as on its online platform.

One movie critic is recommending that Sundance organizers consider following Slamdance’s move. Danielle Solzman, a Chicago film writer who runs the “Solzy at the Movies” website, posted commentary Sunday suggesting that Sundance switch to a virtual festival.

“You don’t want to be the festival that took place amid a COVID-19 surge and became a hotspot,” wrote Solzman, who noted she still plans, for now, to be in Park City in January. “What happens if there’s an outbreak? Where are people going to end up staying so that housemates and roommates don’t get sick?”