Poll any given local, on any given day, and you will find many different opinions on what has simply become known as “Sundance.” It all began in 1978 as the Utah/U.S. Film Festival. Over the years, Sundance has morphed into one of the premier film festivals in the world.
Sundance Film Festival has given Park City a certain level of caché that has helped raise its international profile and increase its property values. This is especially true in the neighborhoods surrounding Old Town and Main Street, where nightly rentals fetch a premium during the 10-day event. Historically, the festival overlapped with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. But last year, the Park City Council lobbied Sundance organizers to shift the event so that these prime lodging dates could be filled with skiers instead of festival goers. This year it begins on Thursday, January 22, immediately after the holiday.
The festival has grown to include screenings in Salt Lake, Ogden and at the Sundance Resort itself. But the action really happens in Park City where the majority of high-profile premieres take place, and all the celebrities stay. Legions of actors – from A-list to indie – in addition to the onslaught of musicians, press and fans, can turn Park City into a parking lot. It’s best to approach the event with a strategy, from procuring passes to getting around from theater to theater.
With theaters screening everything from documentaries to foreign language entries, the opportunities to see a film (or 20) abound. Locals can register to purchase tickets ahead of the pack throughout the fall, but visitors have a good chance to get in on the action, as well.
Starting in mid-December, Open Ticket registration will be available, which permits ticket purchases online and at the Main Box Offices starting at 10 a.m. on January 20 through February 1. A limited number of Day of Show tickets, which must be purchased in person, become available each morning starting on January 22nd. Wait list tickets will become available in January and can be purchased electronically via the web or mobile app. Patrons register, choose a film, receive a wait list number and arrive 30 minutes before the screening. The app shows the likelihood of admittance, so gone are the days of waiting in negative temps outside the venue only to be turned away minutes before the film started.
For a more exclusive experience, there are still two types of packages available for purchase: the $3,000 Express Pass B for all access to screenings Jan. 28-Feb 1, and the $1,500 Eccles Pass B for screening access at Eccles Theatre, which is where the majority of Premiere Category films are screened. Both include a priority ticket line and Awards Party ticket. To check out films offered during the second half of the festival, check out the online Program Guide.
If seeing films isn’t a priority, it’s possible to purchase a Festival credential for just $200, which provides access to non-theatre Festival Venues, including the Sundance House, Filmmaker Lodge, New Frontier, Sundance ASCAP Music Café and the Festival Co-Op.
As in years past, the Festival offers two opportunities for free screenings: Best of Fest and Townie Tuesday. Best of Fest happens on Monday, February 2 after the Festival has ended, and typically features winners from a few of the juried categories. Each Main Box Office (Park City, Salt Lake City, Sundance Resort, and Ogden) hands out tickets for their own Best of Fest screenings on Saturday, January 17, 2015. Once these tickets are gone, they’re gone, so if you’re looking to participate in Best of Fest, plan to be at the Main Street Box Office at 10 a.m. on January 17. Townie Tuesday will be on Tuesday, January 27, and – for the first time – these tickets will be distributed at the same time as the Best of Fest tickets, on January 17. These screenings are for Summit County residents (with proof of ID) at both the Library Center Theatre and the Redstone Cinemas.
Sundance Tips for Visitors
Take the bus, take the bus, take the bus. Or walk. Please (please!) do not rent a car. There is nowhere to park, and it just adds to the congestion. If we continue to have little snow, it’s actually possible to walk between many of the theaters, including Prospector, the MARC, Holiday Village, the Library, Eccles and the Egyptian.
Be kind to the locals. Park City is a resort town and runs at a slower pace – kindly take it down a notch.
Restaurant reservations are hard to come by, but there are many excellent places to eat off the beaten path. Check them out at VisitParkCity.com.
The slopes are deserted during Sundance, so take advantage of the lull in resort crowds.
Beware of Craigslist housing scams. If the per night price seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Dress warm, wear a hat, and leave the Manolos at home.
All in all, many folks moved to Park City because of the unparalleled mix of recreation and culture created by homegrown events like Sundance. So if you hear them complaining a bit, take it with a grain of salt. As with any long term relationship, they can love the festival as much as they dread it. But the event itself is a bucket list item that’s worthy of checking off at least once in this lifetime.
Check out more tips in our Sundance Film Festival Survival Guide!