The Sundance Film Festival is a 10-day event held every January in Park City, UT, highlighting independent movies from the US and overseas. While the festival is named for Robert Redford's character in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," the renowned actor and former Utah resident did not found the festival. He was, however, the inaugural chairman and served an integral role in building the festival's notoriety and reputation.
The festival continued to grow over the next few years, and in 1985, what was once a fledging film festival, partnered with Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and the event began its prosperous and profitable run.
The 10-day festival is broken into 2 parts: the first 5 days and the last 5 days. All films are screened at least once during each period, and ticket packages and festival passes follow this same division. Sundance is normally busiest during the first 5 days, and tickets are a bit harder to score. However, if you want to go to the awards ceremony, you'll definitely want to pick up tickets for the second 5 days of the festival.
There are opening ceremonies and parties in addition to the closing galas and award ceremonies. So no matter which 5 days of the festival you choose to attend, you're guaranteed a good party. Make sure you purchase your party ticket early!
While the majority of screenings are held in Park City, the festival's popularity has led to scheduling screenings in nearby Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance Resort. However, transportation to all these venues can be arranged and the majority of films continue to show on Main St. in Park City.
The films show in 10 separate genres or categories, which can be helpful to viewers when trying to determine which tickets to buy. The Independent Feature Film Competition is considered the main event at Sundance, and consequently, films that show here are those that tend to get the most media attention. Other categories at Sundance include: American Spectrum, Frontier, World Cinema, Native Form, Park City at Midnight, Premieres, Shorts, From the Sundance Collection, and Special Screenings. Explanations of all these categories, including past winners, can be found here.
While it may seem that a festival backed and attended by so many stars is a red carpet only event, one of the greatest thing about Sundance is that it's open to everyone. Whether you're a studio boss, media agent or super-fan, everyone has a pretty equal chance of attending a screening. No registration information is required; if you want to see a film, access an official venue or attend a festival event, simply purchase a ticket (individual or package) or a festival pass through the Sundance box office.
Another way to experience the Sundance Film Festival is to volunteer. If you can't afford a festival package or pass, volunteer to help out. Bring your warmest clothes though, as the festival always occurs during winter and many of the volunteer positions involve taking tickets, guiding attendees or line maintenance. However, the upside is that you'll witness the inside workings of the festival and attend screenings for free.
Sundance Travel and Lodging
Park City, UT, is approximately 45 minutes from Salt Lake City, so festival-goers should arrive via Salt Lake City International Airport and hop a shuttle bus to Park City. Among many others, 2 shuttle companies offering this service are Park City Shuttle and All Resort Express.
The biggest challenge for festival-goers is lodging. Park City isn't huge, so the best advice we can offer is book in advance. There are several hotels near Main St. and at the bases of the Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons. If you're a skier or snowboarder, mountainside condos at both these mountains can be booked with ski-in/ski-out access to the slopes and shuttle service to Main St.
Sundown at Sundance
After you've had your fill of independent film talent, hit the town for miles of swag and sponsored events. At the Town Lift, a ski lift right in the middle of Park City, you'll find several official Sundance sponsors and events. In past years, parties have included the Stella Artois Cutting Room and TAO Lounge where A-listers started off the night.
Other events that have attracted celebrity interest were the Rock Band Lounge, where celebs can shred some serious solos. The Sky Lodge on Main St., a luxurious boutique hotel, hosts a bevy of celebrity-infused parties during the week and is definitely worth checking out.
While meandering Main Street, Park City, you'll see a plethora of food and dining opportunities. Cisero's on Main Street serves fantastic Italian, including Park City's best pizza. After dinner, head downstairs for a great bar scene, live music and pool tables. Ask the bartenders about when Air Supply used to rehearse there.
Festival-goers should make reservations at Grappa, found at the peak of the Main St. hill, for a romantic fireside dinner. But for the best brews on the mountain, pull up a stool at the Wasatch Brewery and order their signature Polygamy Porter.