Record editorial: Sundance plot twist is painful but necessary in light of COVID surge
After all the excitement and optimism regarding the Sundance Film Festival’s planned return to Park City later this month, a plot twist involving an all-too-familiar antagonist has again spoiled the fun.
Organizers on Wednesday announced the cancellation of all in-person screenings and events for the 2022 festival. Instead, it will be held entirely online for a second consecutive year.
The cancellation is unfortunate, particularly given that just two months ago there was plenty of reason to believe the festival was poised for a successful reboot in Park City. It will be painful for the businesses that typically reap a windfall from the 11-day event, but also for film lovers who were eager to bask in the magic of Sundance and now find themselves left out in the cold.
Alas, the decision from the festival organizers wasn’t much of a decision at all. How, amid what is by a wide margin the largest coronavirus surge of the pandemic, could Sundance invite tens of thousands of people to our town to jam into theaters and parties? Even considering the stringent protocols organizers had outlined — including requiring attendees to be vaccinated and, if eligible, boosted and limiting the capacity in venues — the community’s health situation makes it hard to imagine an event of this scope being anything but a flop.
On Wednesday, Summit County reported a stunning 244 coronavirus cases and has set single-day records at least six times since Dec. 23, the beginning of this omicron-fueled surge.
Flatten the curve? The curve, it is clear, has flattened us — and at the worst possible time.
That the coronavirus is raging despite Summit County being the most vaccinated place in the state underscores that there is little Sundance or health officials could have done to satisfactorily reduce the health risks.
The news, though, isn’t all bad. As crummy as it is to have the coronavirus again strip the in-person festival from us, the online platform is still a fun way to experience Sundance. It certainly beats not having a festival at all.
Film lovers can take solace in not having to jostle with the traffic or the crowds, or wait in long lines in the freezing cold. Instead, they can dim the lights and queue up a flick from the comfort of their homes, pajamas on and glass of wine in hand.
It’s not the same — and the economy will suffer from the absence of the in-person festivities — but holing up inside for a while is a smart strategy right now given how quickly the virus is spreading. At least we’ll have plenty of films to entertain us as we dream about a time when the festival can return for real.
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More than two years ago, in the early weeks of the novel coronavirus pandemic, few of us in the Park City area would have comprehended the danger would stretch for as long as it has. But with the third summer of the coronavirus era arriving shortly, the area suddenly has backtracked.