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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Sundance Cancels Personal Film Festival Amid Virus Outbreak

NEW YORK – Just two weeks before it was due to take place in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is canceling its personal festival and returning to an all-virtual release due to the current coronavirus surge.

Festival organizers announced Wednesday that the festival will kick off as scheduled on January 20, but go online. The festival was planned as a hybrid with screenings both in Park City and online. Last year, Sundance also took place virtually due to the pandemic.

“It was a difficult decision,” the festival said in a statement. “As a non-profit organization, our spirit at Sundance is to make things work against all odds. But since the peak incidence in our host community is projected during the week of the festival, we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk. Overworking Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in such an environment. ”

The cancellation of the Sundance personal festival is a huge blow to the independent film industry, which has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Last year’s Sundance virtual festival, which made a splash with films such as Summer of the Soul (or The Revolution Will Not Be Shown on Television) and CODA, proved that a digital festival can still fuel breakout hits. But filmmakers, executives, audiences and journalists hoped that Sundance – the premier American film festival and launching pad for young filmmakers – could kick off the new movie year again with action-packed premieres in the Utah mountains.

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The Sundance Institute, organizing the festival, held out as long as it could in making the decision. At the end of December, when the highly infectious, omicronic variant of COVID-19 led to an increase in incidences across the country, the festival announced that visitors would need vaccination boosters, audience capacity would be reduced, and there would be no food or drink in movie theaters. This was in addition to previous protocols that required proof of vaccination, indoor camouflage, and other requirements.

But with the number of cases sent by omicrons hitting a record high, organizers eventually stopped bringing crowds back to Park City.

“We do not consider it safe or impractical to bring thousands of artists, viewers, staff, volunteers and partners from around the world to the 11-day festival, while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide basic services,” the festival said.

Sundance, which runs from January 20-30, previously announced a list of 82 feature films selected from over 3,700 submissions. Kim Yutani, program director at Sundance, said at the time that “this year’s program reflects the troubled and uncertain times in which we have lived for the past year and a half.”

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