38th Sundance Film Festival Off To A Rocky Start

38th Sundance Web Page

It may be Day Three but there’s still plenty of time to get in on the Sundance Film Festival game. Unlike the in-person experience where everything is sold out months in advance and people wait hours in a freezing-cold standby line, hoping package holders don’t show up for a particular screening, the online or “virtual” Sundance Film Fest is the ultimate version of “inclusive”. No matter where you live, your socio economic status or the company you keep, the only thing holding anyone back from watching a Sundance flick will be their tech savviness.

Only Buffers a Few Times

The complaints and drama abound regarding the 38th Annual Sundance Film Festival. In an effort to “do the right thing”, organizers killed the live part and went virtual without much notice. The technology was in place thanks to last year’s Covid chaos but visitors expecting to finally travel to Park City, Utah, for January had purchased ticket packages upwards of $750 for live screenings and events that would not happen. Sundance’s response to the request for refunds was to thank everyone for their donation; leaving people with only one option – rage on Facebook and dispute the charges with their credit card companies.

Then there was the automatic cancelling of everyone’s ticket selections (including thoses who only had online tickets) in order to transition to their online platform and forcing everyone to start anew. Because the live screenings moved to virtual, there was shuffling to be done and it wouldn’t be fair to make those with live tickets have to take the leftovers.

Another issue that was immediately apparent were the struggles older generations faced trying to link computers to smart TVs. Sundance developed a Festival app that, if you could understand the instructions, was fairly easy to download, connect to your account and stream all of your selections on Roku, FireTV, etc. Your movies sit on a screen of thumbnails and switch from “coming soon” to “renting” as soon as they hit their screening time. However, many took to Facebook to complain about not getting pin codes, not finding their films after the setup, or having their movie stop mid-play and getting kicked out of the app. It did happen once to me but I was able to immediately return to my film where it left off. Another bonus is the ability to pause to grab a snack or use the bathroom.

Taking Your Online Picks

If you’ve done it once, you can do it again. With my former selections in hand, I easily navigated to my first choices and selected them all over again. Thanks to increased bandwidth, only a handful of films are now sold out – like the three awesome movies I’ve seen so far (The Worst Person in the World, Call Jane, Fresh) and the Sundance team is holding out on the Best of Fest tickets until later in the week so those might be available to watch then. If you want to watch a Sundance film it’s entirely possible.

Single Ticket Prices For Sundance Films

It’s a pricey $20 ($15 for Utahns) to screen one Sundance film from your couch but invite five friends and it suddenly makes sense. Have them buy the cocktails, popcorn or pizza and it’s a better deal than the theater. The only differences between a Premiere ticket and a second screening ticket is that you have a shorter window to watch your movie (three-hour window vs. 24-hour window) and the chance to participate in a 30-minute live Q and A after the premiere. But because these live chats can only be viewed on a computer and, let’s be real, we all would rather toss to a 55″, you’re better off going for the second screening tickets where you have more flexibility to see the movie and you can watch the replay of the Q and A for free later if you want. For example, I watched Call Jane and a few hours later, I opened up my computer, surfed to the film description and clicked “watch the Q and A replay”. BTW, these recorded Q&As are available to all and not just ticket holders.

You can also purchase a Day Pass, $75, and watch movies until your brain explodes or the day ends; whichever comes first. The Explorer Pass ($25) will get you access to the short films, the New Frontier and three of the Indie Series programs.

See Sundance Films In Theaters

Twenty cities including Salt Lake City are planning in-person ‘satellite’ screenings. If you want a pseudo Sundance experience check out this list of live events to see if there’s a theater near you.

What’s Free At the Sundance Film Festival

There are so many ways to check in with Sundance, the movies and the filmmakers for free. Navigate here to see what’s on tap for any particular day. Sundance does a How to Fest Daily with Festival Director Tabitha Jackson at 10 a.m. MST presented by Acura. There are Daily Recap Videos presented by Adobe, and the highlights of what happened the day before all on Sundance’s YouTube Channel. In case you missed it, be sure to watch the Robert Redford 2022 Festival Welcome.


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