Sundance Film Festival moves entirely online due to rising COVID cases

Jan 5, 2022, 1:45 PM | Updated: 5:23 pm
Sundance online...
Sundance Film festival cancels all in-person events and moves entirely online. Photo: Lee Benson / Deseret News

PARK CITY, Utah — Sundance just announced plans to cancel all in-person events for the 2022 film festival. Although, this year was meant to be an in-person and online hybrid, organizers have concerns about surging COVID-19 numbers. 

Just a few weeks away from the festival, organizers announced the change in an update. The 2022 Sundance Film Festival will be exclusively online. 

Festival organizers explained that despite adopting the most ambitious protocols, the unexpectedly high transmission rates of the omicron variant pose a serious threat to health safety in travel and in-person events.

Omicron drives Sundance Film Festival online

The announcement came just after the Utah Department of Health announced the state’s highest daily COVID-19 case count to date. With omicron surging, Sundance said it’s not safe or feasible to gather thousands of artists, employees, volunteers and more from around the world for the 11-day event.

Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente and Festival Director Tabitha Jackson issued a joint statement that reads, in part, “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.” 

In the update they wrote, “as a nonprofit, our Sundance spirit is in making something work against the odds.”  However, organizers expressed they cannot knowingly put their staff and community at risk.

Other organizations are saddened, but support the decision

Organizations that work closely with Sundance organizers say they applaud the decision, although there is something special about being at the festival, in person. 

Park City Film Commission Director Katherine Wang says, “I applaud their decision.  I know it was an incredibly hard decision for them to have made.”

Wang says vendors and volunteers had growing doubts that the in-person events would be allowed to continue as they watched Omicron variant cases continue to rise.

“It just became increasingly clear that that was not going to be possible to the rest of us.  I think Sundance had to make that hard decision,” she says.  “Absolutely, festivals will come back when it’s safe and we’re safely ale to do that.”

Wang has high praise for Sundance’s 2021 festival, which was also strictly online.  She says access to the events was, in a way, better than it is in an in-person setting.

“If you missed a Q&A, which often happens in a live festival if you have to run off to another film, you could go back and watch the Q&A at a later time,” Wang says.


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