Take in the sights, ski slopes, and Hollywood stars at the Sundance Film Festival, one of the industry’s most highly regarded film festivals. For ten days straight, Park City, a picturesque ski town in Utah, becomes the main place to see what some of the best directors, actors, writers, and producers from all over the world have to offer at the largest independent film festival in the US. With workshops, screenings, panel discussions, installations, music events, and plenty of parties running around the clock this year from January 18th to 28th, it’s a wonder anyone who goes to Sundance has any time to actually ski.
This famous festival first began in 1978 in Salt Lake City as the Utah/US film festival but moved to Park City in 1981. It officially became the Sundance Film Festival in 1991 after chairman, actor, and Utah resident Robert Redford’s character in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Growing larger and gaining notoriety each and every year, now over 40,000 people attend this ever-growing, extremely popular festival, and the festival has spread out over three cities including Park City, Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Mountain Resort. The organizers have made getting around easy though, and there are shuttles to transport moviegoers from location to location.
The mandate of the festival has always been to bring to the screen original stories for adventurous audiences. Since its inaugural year, hundreds of films that have screened at Sundance have gone on to gain international recognition, critical awards, and most importantly, given audiences a new perspective and new voices in film. Whether you’re a cinephile, ski bum, fan of star-studded glitz and glamour, or just looking for a good time, The Sundance Film festival will not disappoint. Here’s what you need to know.
Although this year’s program will not be announced until December, you should still get a jump start on tickets and packages as they can sell out fast. Given the festival’s proven track record, chances are there will be some seriously anticipated premiers, big time Hollywood actors and directors, award-worthy independent films, thoughtful documentaries, and a significant international film presence in attendance in 2018. Previous Sundance Film Festival winners include Winter’s Bone, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Whiplash.
If you’re a serious film buff who wants the true Sundance experience, the Express Pass is for you, providing complete access to film screening (with priority entrance) and a ticket to the awards party. There are also separate theater passes, like the Eccles Theatre pass (in Park City) or the Grand Theatre pass (in Salt Lake City) if you want to base yourself in one place. If you’re looking for something a little easier on the wallet, the Off-Peak pass might be your ticket, with full access to all screenings held before 11 am or after 10 pm. Finally, if you just want to schmooze, booze, and rub shoulders with the industry’s professionals, an Official Credential will give you access to added extras such as the Filmmakers Lodge and Music Café.
The headquarters for this year’s festival is at the Park City Marriott and it’s open to all festival attendees, as well as the general public. This is the spot where all festival business takes place, so whether you want to pick up your pass, check your email or just grab a coffee and hope for a celebrity sighting, this is where you need to be. The Festival Base Camp is a popular venue in the heart of Park City and combines music, performances, panels, art, film and more. With performances at night and panels during the day, this is the place to sit outside around the fire pit, eat, drink, and relax. For the more dedicated cinephiles, the Filmmaker Lodge is a casual meeting place for anyone who’s in the industry or those who like to sit around and talk film shop. This space is open to all pass holders and the general public, but only on a space-available basis. Finally, the Sundance ASCAP Music Cafe is where to go for live music performances by bands or actors and is always a fun, lively spot, where you can get in on the growing Sundance music scene.
Where to Stay in Park City
There are so many great accommodation options for the Park City area, there’s an accommodation to match whatever you’re looking for. If you’re after a bit of space, with mountain access, The Colony 26 might be your ideal villa. With five spacious bedrooms and room to sleep 14 people, this ski-in, ski-out, sophisticated residence reflects its natural surroundings with an open-concept living space complemented by high ceilings, hardwood floors, exposed beams, and of course, a large stone fireplace. With downtown Park City a scenic, six-mile drive, this villa has the best of both worlds.
For something a little closer to the action, Main and Mountain is at the intersection of the ski hill and the town. This chic, open plan rental has three bedrooms, a hot tub overlooking Main Street and could not be more convenient: it’s equally a two-minute walk to the lift and the city’s main drag, perfect for both the outdoor fans and movie buffs alike.
Another option, smack dab in the center of everything is the April Inn Penthouse. Contemporary, newly constructed and with floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the town, this five-bedroom alpine home allows you to walk everywhere you need to go in Park City, from movie premiers to after parties.
Finally, if you’re seeking something uber luxurious, spacious and private for you and your friends or family, look no further than the Sky Villa. Six bedrooms sit atop the mountain at Canyon Resort offering incredible, uninterrupted views, ski-in, ski-out facilities, and only a 20-minute drive from Main Street. Game room? Check. Heated pool? Check. Baby grand piano? Check. Best Sundance vacation ever? Check.