Getting Ahead of Sundance: A 2020 Festival Survival Guide

Locals who have lived in Park City for any length of time will likely have a few Sundance Film Festival stories to share – whether it was getting to attend the premiere of a soon-to-be-famous film (think “Napoleon Dynamite” or “The Blair Witch Project”), or simply spotting celebrities strolling along Main Street or dining in their favorite eatery – nearly every Parkite will agree that Sundance brings a certain energy to town, but knowing how to survive those ten days can mean the difference between a positive or a negative Festival experience.

(Photo credit: Sundance Institute)

This year’s Festival runs Thursday, January 23 through Sunday, February 2, though the first weekend tends to be the busiest in town, with the highest profile premieres occurring in the first few days. If you don’t have to go into town during the day, it’s best to avoid the I-80 off-ramps at Kimball Junction, S.R. 224 from Kimball Junction into town, Old Town/Main Street, and the Prospector neighborhood, especially Kearns Boulevard. Consider sticking to shopping and the restaurants in Kimball Junction, or plan on early and late-hour grocery runs.

In the past, Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High have adjusted their release times to account for afternoon screening times at the Eccles Center (adjacent to the high school), so if you have students at those schools, keep an eye on emails and social media for updates.

Stay up-to-speed on traffic incidents, road closures, weather conditions and other emergencies during the festival by signing up to emergency alerts. Just text FILMFEST to 888777, and you’ll receive alerts during the event, which can be helpful for locals navigating around town.

In the spirit of, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” consider volunteering for this year’s Festival. Not only will you receive one of the super-cool volunteer jackets, you’ll have a chance to meet film buffs from across the U.S. and throughout the world. Check out the volunteer opportunities by clicking here.

(Photo Credit: Sundance Institute)

Looking forward to hitting Main Street for that coveted Jon Hamm sighting? It’s a great time to use Park City Transit, especially the Ecker Hill Park-and-Ride and Kimball Junction Transit Center. Just download the “myStop Mobile” app for current routes and departure/arrival times, and get ready to mix and mingle with locals and visitors while en route!

Though the local pass and ticket packages went on sale Oct. 15 and have already sold out, you can still find ways to “Fest” during this year’s event. “Open Tickets” are available at the Main Box Offices and online through Feb. 2, and cost $25 each, or $10 for Kids Screenings. Another option are eWaitlist Tickets, which means you join an electronic queue for the chance to score last-minute tickets to films via the web at (NOTE: This site is not yet up-and-running for Sundance 2020) or by using the mobile app. To “get in line” for the eWaitlist, just register your account, choose a film, and then receive your eWaitlist number. You’re then required to arrive at the theater no later than 30 minutes before the screening, and can see the likelihood of getting into the film within the system, though tickets are not guaranteed. These tickets are $25 each, or $10 for Kids screenings, and are cash only.

The two much-anticipated free screening opportunities for locals – Townie Tuesday and Best of Fest – are still scheduled for this year’s festival, but tickets will not be available in advance, as they have been previously. Instead, tickets for both will be available through the eWaitlist system described above, with Townie Tuesday on Jan. 28 at the Redstone Cinema at 7 p.m., and Best of Fest screenings scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3. Best of Fest screenings will be announced online the morning of Sunday, Feb. 2, and eWaitlists for films on both days will open two hours before each screening.

Regular ticket packages for the first half of the Festival have also sold out, but there are still Express Passes and Eccles Theatre Passes available for the second half of the Festival, which is Jan. 29 – Feb. 2. The Express Pass is $3,500 and includes access to screenings at all theaters with priority access, plus one official Festival photo credential and one awards party ticket. The Eccles Theatre Pass is $2,000, and provides access to all screenings at the Eccles Theatre, where most premieres are held, along with priority access and a Festival photo credential. There is also a 10 Ticket Package for the second half of the Festival for $600, which includes 10 tickets, two official Festival credentials and two awards party tickets, or you can purchase a standalone non-screening, non-photo Festival credential for $300, which provides access to non-theatre venues, including the Filmmaker Lodge, New Frontier, and daytime admission to the ASCAP Music Café (must be 21). Information for all passes and packages can be found by clicking here, but you must register or sign-in to access the page.

(Photo Credit: Sundance Institute)

Once the Festival starts, be sure to bookmark the Festival Map on your phone to easily locate shuttle stops, theatre locations and box offices. As in years past, the Festival Headquarters are located in Prospector Square at the Sheraton Park City (formerly the Marriott Park City – 1895 Sidewinder Drive). The Main Box Office also returns to its previous location at the corner of Swede Alley and Heber Avenue in Old Town, and is where patrons pick up ticket packages and passes.

If you live out of town and need help planning your trip, the Festival is incentivizing patrons to utilize their online portal to book lodging by offering the choice of a Lyft voucher, Whole Foods gift card, or two film vouchers with certain bookings. And there’s no need to rent a car, as there is no parking at any of the screening venues, so plan to utilize the Festival shuttles or rideshares.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend you head to Main Street at least once during the Festival. It’s highly likely you’ll spot a few celebrities ranging from A-listers to that “person you saw in an HBO series once, but can’t quite remember their name.” The energy in Old Town during Sundance is unmatched, and if you’re up for venturing out at night, check out O.P. Rockwell’s, a sophisticated live music venue with an excellent dance floor and raised stage perfect for taking in both established and up-and-coming musical acts.

Sundance definitely brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities to the community each year, but with some foresight and patience, it can be a positive experience for both locals and visitors. And it’s just one more reason why so many people Choose Park City for their new home or vacation property. To learn more about the special events that make Park City so special, connect with Christine Grenney at 435-640-4238, or visit her website by clicking here.

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