Editorial: It’s like a zoo, but a good one | ParkRecord.com

Editorial: It’s like a zoo, but a good one

Few Parkites get to the other side of Sundance thinking they want to be more like the folks from Los Angeles or New York City.

Main Street traffic backs up during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. | David Jackson/Park Record

Sundance 2023 is heading toward its second-week finale as we write this so it’s a good time to take preliminary stock. On the whole, it’s a pretty-ish picture.

The crowds returned after the two-year, coronavirus-induced hiatus, so that’s a win for the festival and Park City. Sundance doesn’t look to be as big as it was in 2020, but many factors have since intervened, including changes in the film industry. There was a time not so long ago when we were wondering whether theater business would ever return.

The short answer seems to be that there’s no going back, ever, for anything or any of us — yet what we’ve seen of Sundance this year is encouraging. It’s a good-enough year in terms of attendance and buzz that could well set the stage for an even better one next year.

There were justified complaints about the traffic. There probably always will be complaints about the traffic, especially in the winter; but it’s worth keeping in mind that Sundance has been an economic boon to Park City in part because it’s done what it was meant to do: bring more visitors at what might have been a slower time in the ski season after the holidays.

And that means more traffic. If there is a perfect way to accommodate more visitors without at all inconveniencing Parkites, we haven’t found it yet. But we keep looking.

By Thursday, there seemed to be the usual Sundance lull or lag. We went for a walk downtown, which was like visiting a place where a party had been and there might be one again; like when the mother returns in “The Cat in the Hat.”

Beyond Old Town, Sundance has cultural spillover effects, also known as sightseeing for us.

The people who are drawn to an independent film festival are often not the “creatives” so much as those in a variety of ancillary roles connected to the business of making movies. One of the interesting things about them is seeing how much they are tethered to their phones, actuated by the fear of missing out, usually of missing The Next Big Thing. Seen en masse, inundating a town that covets their business and prestige, they can appear anxious and flighty; entitled, and, at the same time, clueless. Sundance can almost seem like a zoo where they’re on exhibit.

People don’t go to the other kinds of zoos so much anymore, and for good reasons; but still, no one goes and thinks they want to be the orangutans or camels. Few Parkites get to the other side of Sundance thinking they want to be more like the folks from Los Angeles or New York City.

They also leave us with some questions. Why, for example, would an adult troupe of quite tall furries from London, to judge from their accents, appearing, confused, at the self-checkout at the Walmart at Kimball Junction, not occasion stares?

We found ourselves staring, then checked ourselves, then unchecked ourselves. We’re not rude or provincial. They’re a bona fide curiosity. And surely they mean to be, or why would a woman go to Walmart dressed as a red fox to buy Pringles?

Many of us in the self-checkout pod also may have been wondering how the furries planned to get downtown, where they belonged. Did they, for example, have some kind of elaborate car? A George Barris special, like the Munster Koach?

That was solved when we saw the Furry Family outside, trying to negotiate the North Landmark Drive roundabout on foot like frightened mountaineers. They might have been roped up. They seemed to be heading south.

What a fun time. It’s still good on the periphery, at a distance. Sometimes it even might be better there.


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