Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival/Jonathan Hickerson
Sundance Film Festival will return to in-person screenings in 2022, while also allowing people to access the independent movies it highlights digitally. The new hybrid approach comes as many premiere film festivals are reimagining the way the curate and share movies during the pandemic era. The Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival are just a few of the other annual celebrations of cinema that are combining in-person events with virtual offerings.
In addition, Sundance will require all participants attending the mountain-top gathering to be fully vaccinated. That includes volunteers, audience members and the artists themselves. Other safety measures, such as requirements about mask-wearing or social distancing, will be shared closer to the January event, Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson told members of the film community in a letter.
Jackson argued in favor of a hybrid digital and in-person approach by suggesting that it builds a bigger audience for indie films by allowing more people to access the movies.
“The soul of Sundance has always been in the coming together of a community: around new voices, new work, new forms, and new perspectives,” Jackson wrote. “During last year’s Festival, even when denied the chance to gather in a single place, the power of converging in a single moment was undeniable. We were able to expand the possibility of who could take part. And as we prepare for 2022, we remain committed to this invitation to new audiences.”
The 2022 version of Sundance will begin on Jan. 20, with premieres happening through Jan. 25. There will be additional screenings of the selected movies until Jan. 28. That’s a slightly tighter calendar than in previous, pre-pandemic times, when Sundance premieres stretched for more than a week and a half. The festival program will be larger than last year’s, with roughly 80 features debuting in those initial five days. Last year, Sundance showed 73 feature films, while in 2020, a couple of months before COVID scrambled things, the festival had more than 120 features.
“We have taken this journey around the sun 37 times since 1985, and this ritual repetition, this annual pilgrimage, has only served to affirm the urgency, vitality, and expressive power of independent film and media,” Jackson wrote. “By fiercely holding space for independent perspectives and media created outside the mainstream market, we as a community can spark new narratives, protect bold critiques of power, and deepen our understanding of what is possible. It has never been more essential.”
Utah-based Sundance will have in-person screenings in Park City, the central hub for festival-goers, as well as in nearby Salt Lake City and at the Sundance Mountain Resort. Once again, the festival will augment these events will a series of screenings across the country, which will be hosted with up to 10 partners. These satellite screenings will show selections from the festival’s official program during its closing weekend.
Variety's Brett Lang contributed to this post.