Just two weeks before the festival was set to commence its first in-person festivities since 2020, the Sundance Film Festival has announced it’ll be going virtual for the second year running. Citing reports of spiking COVID-19 numbers in their native Park City, Utah, the festival organizers announced via e-mail today that plans for in-person screenings have now been scuttled.
“While it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah,” organizers wrote, “We do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services.”
The rise and fall of festival optimism has been a recurring factor throughout the pandemic; Sundance, by dint of its usual January-February timing, was one of the last events to get in under the wire back in 2020 before waves of cancellations began to break across the industry. The advent of vaccines led a number of events to tentatively hope for a full return in 2022—but now the rise of the disease’s Omicron variant, and the attendant spikes in cases, have started what may turn out to be another epidemic of convention plug-pulling.
Sundance will continue to operate the virtual side of its planned festivities, kicking off as (sort of) planned on Thursday, January 20. Virtual attendees should expect to see some disruptions to the festival’s online schedule, as accommodations are made for going strictly online. Organizers also noted that plans for screenings at satellite locations, set for the last few days of January, are still expected to go forward. (We’ll believe it when we see it, honestly.)