Sundance cancels in-person festival in Park City, citing rising omicron cases
Organizers say it is not ‘safe nor feasible to gather thousands’ with coronavirus spreading
Sundance Film Festival organizers on Wednesday canceled all in-person events in the Park City area and elsewhere in Utah, citing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus, the second consecutive year the largest and most lucrative special event on the community’s calendar will not be held live.
The festival had been planned as a hybrid event with in-person screenings in Park City complementing an online platform. The festival instead will be held exclusively online. The opening is slated on Jan. 20.
There was rising concern about the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus as Sundance and the community were entering the final two weeks of preparations for the event. Festival officials had drafted a broad plan designed to protect public health that relied heavily on mandatory coronavirus testing for certain attendees and vaccination requirements, but it seemed in recent days there were renewed worries. Various entities involved in the preparations did not respond to Park Record inquiries early in the week regarding the status of the festival.
“We have been looking forward to our first fully hybrid Sundance Film Festival and our teams have spent a year planning a festival like no other. But despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health safety, travel and other infrastructures across the country,” Sundance said in a statement on Wednesday.
The statement also said: “While it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah, we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services.”
Sundance said coronavirus cases are “forecasted to peak in our host community the week of the festival” and “we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk.”
“The undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate. It has become increasingly clear over the last few days that this is the right decision to make for the care and well-being of all of our community,” the statement said.
Sundance said it will contact people who purchased passes and packages. Single tickets are scheduled to be put on sale Jan. 13 or the day before for member pre-sales.
Park City Mayor Nann Worel addressed the cancellation in a prepared statement in response to a Park Record inquiry.
“The Park City Council and I fully support Sundance Institute’s incredibly difficult and yet compassionate decision to move the 2022 Sundance Film Festival to a virtual format. The health and safety of our community remain our top priority, and we are fortunate to have a partner that shares these values. We encourage everyone to enjoy the Festival’s magic virtually — and we look forward to gathering with Festivalgoers online in 2022 and in-person in 2023.”
The impact of the decision will ripple through Park City’s economy. The lodging, restaurant and transportation sectors usually enjoy especially strong numbers during Sundance. The cancellation of the in-person event in 2021 was seen as one of the lowest economic points of the pandemic for the Park City area. There was limited tourism in Park City during the festival dates at a time when the community would normally be at its busiest.
Others, however, could see the cancellation of the in-person festival as the prudent move with an important stretch of the ski season starting shortly after Sundance closes. Rising case counts after Sundance could have had wide impacts on the important ski-industry months of February and March.
The Park City area is experiencing its largest coronavirus surge of the pandemic, spurred by the omicron variant. Summit County on Tuesday logged a record single-day case count, with 216, nearly triple that of the highest day prior to the current spike.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a statement from Mayor Nann Worel.
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