By JAKE COYLE, AP screenwriter
NEW YORK (AP) – Just two weeks before being held in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is canceling its festival in person and reverting to a fully virtual edition due to the current wave of coronavirus.
Festival organizers announced on Wednesday that the festival will begin as scheduled on January 20 but will move online. The festival had been designed as a hybrid, with screenings both in Park City and online. Last year’s Sundance also took place virtually due to the pandemic.
“It was a difficult decision to make,” the festival said in a statement. “As a non-profit organization, our Sundance spirit is to make something work against the odds. But with the number of cases expected to peak in our host community during festival week, we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk. The undue stress on Summit County Health Services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate. “
The cancellation of an in-person Sundance is a blow to an independent film industry that has struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic. Last year’s Virtual Sundance, where films like “Summer of Soul (or The Revolution Will Not Be Televised)” and “CODA” caused a stir, proved that a digital festival can still generate smash hits. But filmmakers, executives, audiences and journalists had hoped that Sundance – America’s premier film festival and a launching pad for young filmmakers – could once again kick off a new film year with full premieres in the mountains of the United States. ‘Utah.
The Sundance Institute, which hosts the festival, held out as long as possible to make the decision. At the end of December, when the highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 spiked cases nationwide, the festival announced that vaccination boosters would be needed for attendees, audience capacity would be reduced and no food or drink. would only be allowed in theaters. This was in addition to previous protocols which imposed proof of vaccination, indoor masking and other requirements.
But with omicron sending the number of cases to record highs, organizers have finally put an end to the crowds returning to Park City.
“We don’t think it’s safe or feasible to bring together thousands of artists, audiences, staff, volunteers and partners from around the world for an 11-day festival when overwhelmed communities are already struggling. to provide essential services, ”the festival said.
Sundance, which runs Jan. 20-30, earlier announced a slate of 82 feature films selected from more than 3,700 entries. Kim Yutani, director of programming for Sundance, said at the time that “this year’s schedule reflects the troubling and uncertain times in which we have lived for the past year and a half.”
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