Sundance announces plan for 11-day, in-person festival in Park City in 2022

Organizers say the event next year could stretch ‘beyond’ the traditional Utah locations

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival was held primarily online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers on Thursday said they are planning the 2022 festival as an in-person event in Park City with an online presence.
Park Record file photo

The Sundance Film Festival in 2022 is planned as an 11-day, in-person event with an online presence complementing the action in Park City, organizers said on Thursday, describing a return of the community’s largest and most lucrative special event a year after all live festival activities were canceled in Park City.

Sundance said the festival is scheduled to open on Thursday, Jan. 20, and close on Sunday, Jan. 30. The days and dates mark a return to the normal scheduling of the festival.

A statement from Sundance did not provide further details. It said organizers in the summer plan to provide further information. Sundance and City Hall in the summer are typically engaged in discussions about modifications to the next festival, and it seems almost certain the talks between the municipal government and Sundance this year will be especially closely watched as the sides craft the details of the return of an in-person event.

“We can’t wait to return to Park City, Salt Lake City — and beyond — for next year’s Sundance Film Festival,” the statement said.

The idea that the festival in 2022 is designed to be held beyond Park City and Salt Lake City could signal organizers want to retain at some level the online presence of the 2021 event. Sundance earlier this year was held via an online platform that allowed people to screen films on their own. The online platform was adopted in an effort to discourage crowds during Sundance at a time when the novel coronavirus pandemic was especially devastating.

Sundance in the statement also said it is “in the process of designing a safe and accessible Festival where our audiences and artists can come together to celebrate and discover new work, and each other.”

Sundance in 2020 had initially planned an in-person festival, announced in June, with screenings in Park City and elsewhere in North America. Those blueprints were ultimately scrapped as the spread of the sickness worsened. In early December, Sundance said most screenings would be moved online while operating one in-person location in Park City, The Ray theater at Holiday Village. The organizers later that month dropped The Ray, leaving Park City without a live venue for Sundance.

With the festival online in 2021, the Park City economy took a significant hit. Sundance numbers are usually especially solid in the lodging, restaurant and transportation industries. Aggregate spending topped $150 million in 2020, much of that total in Park City and surrounding Summit County, an economic study released after the festival that year calculated. The festival in 2020 was held in the weeks before the pandemic became devastating.

It is likely the plans for Sundance in 2022 will be fluid and eventually be heavily influenced by the state of the spread of the coronavirus in the months before the event. Organizers would need to adhere to any public health orders that could be in place at the time, as an example. The statement on Thursday did not address topics like alterations to the capacity of screening rooms or mask requirements. It is likely issues like those could be broached in the talks between Sundance and City Hall later in the year.

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