Sundance cancels its in-person film festival because of virus surge

NEW YORK (AP), The Sundance Film Festival has cancelled its in-person event in Park City, Utah just two weeks ago. This is due to the current coronavirus outbreak.

Sundance cancels its in-person film festival because of virus surge

The festival organizers announced Wednesday that while the festival will continue as planned on Jan. 20, it will now shift online. The festival was originally planned as a hybrid with screenings in Park City and online. The pandemic caused Sundance to be held virtually last year.

Festival officials stated that it was difficult to make the decision. Sundance is a non-profit that believes in making things work for the good of all. We cannot put our community and staff at risk with the expected rise in case numbers during the festival. In this environment, it would be irresponsible to place Summit County's health and 1,500 volunteers under undue stress.

Independent film industry has been struggling to survive during the crisis and this cancellation of an in-person Sundance is devastating. The virtual Sundance last year, which saw films such as "Summer of Soul" and "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" make a splash, showed that a digital festival can still produce breakout hits. However, Sundance, the American premier film festival and a platform for young filmmakers, was still hoped to kick-start a new year with packed premieres in Utah.

The festival's organizer, the Sundance Institute held off for as long as possible before making its decision. The festival made the announcement in December that all attendees would need to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 omicron virus. It also announced that the audience would be reduced and that no food or drinks would be allowed into the theaters. This was in addition to previous protocols which required vaccination proof and indoor masking, among other requirements.

However, with record-breaking omicron case counts, organizers pulled the plug on bringing people back to Park City.

Festival organizers stated that it was not safe or feasible to gather thousands upon thousands of artists, audience members, employees, volunteers, and other partners around the globe for an 11-day festival, while overburdened communities struggle to provide essential services.

Sundance runs from Jan. 20-30. It previously announced a slate featuring 82 feature-length films, selected from over 3,700 submissions. Sundance's director for programming Kim Yutani stated at that time that the "this year’s program reflects our unsettling and uncertain times of the past year and half."

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