sundance 2021

We’re still many months away from Sundance 2021, but rather than delay the inevitable, the Sundance Film Festival has already begun planning for how they’re going to handle the fest in the age of COVID-19. There was a time not so long ago when we were hoping that the coronavirus would be a distant memory when 2021 rolled around, but that’s clearly not going to happen. With that in mind, Sundance 2021 will host online screenings and also expand to theaters outside of Utah.

Every year, the Sundance Film Festival gives critics, industry insiders, and festival-goers a glimpse of the year to come in movies. In late January and early February, attendees gather in Park City, Utah to partake in a slew of new movies screened at Sundance…but things have changed. The coronavirus is still a very real threat, and while there are still months to go before January 2021, festival organizers aren’t taking any chances.

As a result, Sundance unveiled plans for the 2021 fest. The full breakdown of what to expect can be viewed here, but here are some highlights:

  • At the center of all our planning, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival will have an online home, making the festival accessible in a way it never has been before. Audiences will have the opportunity to view the curated program and take part in discussions and special live events online via a brand-new platform. This will be the nucleus of the Festival, a showcase for a world of new work, and home to a global community of festivalgoers who will encounter the art, the artists, and each other. A one-stop point of access, designed to create a participatory experience which brings all the elements and locations of the Festival together. It will center our values of engagement, inclusion, and entertainment, and connect artists with the first audiences as their work meets the world. All this in a way that captures the energy and excitement that has long defined the Sundance Film Festival.
  • The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be a grand partnership of communities. It will take place live in Utah and in at least 20 independent and community cinemas across the U.S. and beyond. While the full program plays out in Utah, each of our partners will host a bespoke slate from the official selection alongside complementary programming of their own. Their communities acting as vibrant hubs of creativity, maker culture, and adventurous audiences. This plan acknowledges the vital role of the independent cinema network in our ecosystem. We are in exploratory discussions with cinemas from LA to Louisville, from New York to Nashville, from Austin to Atlanta, from Detroit to Denver, from Minneapolis to Mexico City — with many more to come.

Sundance adds that “The success of this idea, indeed its very heartbeat, depends upon collaboration — between us and key players in this delicate ecology of independent cinema…Our model intentionally allows us to dial up or dial down the live gatherings (especially in our Utah home) and Festival length as conditions dictate.”

Film festivals across the globe are all having to adjust their plans. This year, both SXSW and Cannes were canceled, while the upcoming TIFF is planning to host all of their films online. The Venice Film Festival is moving forward as if nothing has changed (which sounds like a bad idea!), and as of now, Telluride is planning to take place as scheduled as well – although that may change. Fantastic Fest is still up in the air – there have been no official announcements yet, but I’m having a hard time believing that fest will happen this year.

Sundance 2020 was the last big public event I attended before the entire world shut down, and while I was hoping against hope to be able to return in 2021, I’m glad the festival is implementing changes to accommodate those of us who might be unable to make it to Park City next year.

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