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Park City approves Sundance’s further-reduced plans for 2021

The Ray tapped as the festival’s only Park City screening room

The Sundance Film Festival box office in Park City, shown in 2020, is usually busy with lines of people seeking a prized ticket to a screening. Park City leaders on Thursday approved plans for Sundance in 2021 that are further scaled back from an earlier blueprint.
Park Record file photo

Park City will be the base of the Sundance Film Festival in January and February, but the top marketplace of independent films in the U.S. will not be the typical spectacle.

Park City leaders on Thursday approved Sundance’s further scaled-back plans for the festival, which call for a limited amount of in-person activity in Park City alongside venues across North America and a robust online platform. Sundance is scheduled Jan. 28 until Feb. 3. The event will be shortened from the normal 11 days and the dates have been shifted so it starts one week later than had been scheduled.

The Ray at Holiday Village is planned as the only screening room in Park City. It will be limited to 50 people per screening. Sundance banners and unspecified sponsor displays will be put in Park City and be allowed a week earlier than is typical. City Hall buses will operate at the winter peak level rather than being boosted for Sundance.



The Park City Council unanimous vote followed in the months after the elected officials in August approved an earlier blueprint for the festival that included the Park City Library as a venue. Sundance, though, later presented reworked plans that are seen as a further reduction in the scope of the event.

The scaled-back festival is designed as a one-year measure with Sundance returning to Park City with a full event in 2022, depending on the state of the coronavirus pandemic at that time. The City Council in the earlier vote agreed to suspend for one year a requirement that Sundance stage 70% of the festival in Park City and surrounding Summit County. The suspension allowed Sundance to pursue the screening rooms elsewhere.



The spread of the disease worsened significantly in the U.S. and globally in the weeks after Sundance was held earlier this year. Sundance in the summer indicated it was crafting radically altered plans for the 2021 festival and, since then, there have been ongoing talks with City Hall about the event.

Sundance officials addressed Mayor Andy Beerman and the City Council on Thursday, saying an homage to Main Street in Park City will be created. Nobody from the public testified at a hearing prior to the vote.

The elected officials provided limited input before the decision. City Councilor Max Doilney said Sundance over time has offered different ways to attend the festival and wondered whether some of the elements of the 2021 event could be used in future editions of Sundance.

“I look forward to a new experience,” he said.

Nann Worel, another city councilor, talked of a strong relationship between Sundance and the community and also wants to experience the format for 2021.

Sundance is usually an especially busy time in Park City with crowds until the early morning hours and traffic backups across the community. Industries like lodging, restaurant and transportation typically post some of the best numbers of the year. The Park City area is expected to take a significant economic hit with the loss of a full-fledged Sundance in January, likely reaching into nine figures.


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