Sundance has canceled its planned in-person events in Park City, Utah for 2022 and for the second year in a row will move its screenings fully online.
Sundance had attempted to stage a hybrid festival for 2022 and host screenings both on the ground and virtually. But with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreading at rapid rates and forcing the cancellation of other awards shows and events across the industry, the festival’s hand was finally forced.
The festival will still take place as previously scheduled beginning January 20, with some screening adjustments made to the schedule to account for a fully online festival. However Sundance will still host screenings with its seven satellite partners in person, with those set for Jan. 28-30. Single tickets for the festival will now go on sale on January 13, as previously announced.
“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,” the festival wrote in an update shared with press on Wednesday.
It continued: “This was a difficult decision to make. As a nonprofit, our Sundance spirit is in making something work against the odds. But with case numbers forecasted to peak in our host community the week of the festival we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk. The undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate. It has become increasingly clear over the last few days that this is the right decision to make for the care and well-being of all of our community.”
The previous plan was for Sundance to have in-person premieres in Park City immediately followed by a virtual premiere, and each with its own Q&A, both for live screenings and for people viewing online. And late in 2021, the festival put in place a new requirement that COVID-19 booster shots would be required for attendees, with the festival even offering boosters to those who made the trip.
If there’s a silver lining to the news, it’s that last year’s virtual Sundance attracted a record 600,000 estimated people who “attended” the festival and watched various screenings, events or talks, which was three times more than the pre-pandemic attendance in 2020.
“We ask for your patience as we work to make the necessary adjustments. We will be in touch with all pass and package holders and ticket purchasers. with an update on already purchased tickets,” the festival added in its update. “We believe in the transformative power of artists and their work. Today, as we navigate all that the pandemic throws at us we go back to what is certain: Gathering together – in whatever way we can – is profound. Community matters. We follow the artist. So, we look forward to sharing with you the extraordinary work that fuels our Festival, experiencing it together, and celebrating the artists who will change the culture.”