Sundance Survival Guide 

How to experience the film festival

You've seen Sundance film-festival guides before—the ones that tell you where to go, what to see, how to get from Point A to Point B, etc. And they could be useful—assuming that Sundance is a “one-size-fits-all” event.

But it’s not. There are many ways to Sundance, especially for locals. City Weekly’s contributors want their decades of combined festival experience to help potential attendees customize their experience. Interested in heading to Park City just to star-watch? We can hook you up. Are you the true movie buff who wants to see as many movies in Park City as possible? Problem solved. Would you prefer to avoid the mountain altogether and stick to the Salt Lake City screenings? We’re here for you.

Sundance Survival Guide

The Movie Buff Manual
The People Watching Manual
Park City in 1 Day Manual
Sundance in SLC Manual

The Movie Buff Manual
Knowing when and how to get Sundance tickets is only half the battle.

By Jeremy Matthews

If Sundance is a film festival, then it’s probably a good idea to see some films. It’s possible for the ambitious to see five, six or even seven films a day, so long as burnout isn’t an issue. The following tips will help you see as many as you can stomach. While these guidelines are handy, prepare for the full spectrum of experiences, from bitter disappointments to pleasant surprises.

Fast ways to get your Sundance tickets
The junkie searching for a five-film day is at a distinct wait-list disadvantage compared to those willing to camp out at a theater 12 hours before a movie starts, so actual tickets are the best bet. Most screenings may be officially sold-out, but each morning at 8 a.m.., Sundance releases extra tickets for that day, as well as for the next morning’s earliest timeslots. It’s a bit of a chore to wake up early— some sleep at the box office, others show up an hour early—but once tickets are in hand, you can head to theaters without the waitlister’s endless apprehension. Go to the Park City Box Office at Gateway Mall (136 Heber Ave.) or the Salt Lake City Box Office at Trolley Square (552 S. 700 East). Given that out-of-towners are lodged up the mountain, Salt Lakers may find shorter lines if they hit Trolley Square. More info on Sundance tickets.

If your show is sold out and no kindly passerby offers you a free ticket, then your last resort is the fabled—and unpredictable—wait list. If you happen to be near a theater where a film is about to start, you could stroll over to the box office and see if there’s room. It happens (to non-buzz movies). On the other hand, you could waste three hours of your day, only to be turned away from a full theater.

Two hours before a screening starts, box-office workers hand out numbers marking your place in line. You must then return earlier than 30 minutes before the screening to line back up, in order; if you return late, they’ll send you to the back of the line. Cash is required, so have $15 ready, exact change if possible. While no-show ticket-holders are helpful, success really depends on the number of pass-holder attendees.

You’ll be better off trying for a documentary at the Library rather than the small Holiday Village, where Express Pass holders can fill a theater. And though the Eccles seats nearly eight times as many people as the Holiday Village, if a big star is premiering a film, don’t count on empty seats. Early morning and late-night films are typically easier to get into, but there are more Express Passes dedicated specifically to those time frames, so if you’re waitlisting a must-see midnight movie, you may still be out of luck.

Get around: Park City transportation
If a publication wants to lose the faith of readers, it need only offer definitive transportation times between Sundance theaters. You might narrowly miss your bus, only to be picked up by another three minutes later. Or you could stand in a puddle of slush for half an hour without a single bus passing.

Be realistic when planning your schedule. If you have less than an hour between screenings and the theaters aren’t next door, you’re taking a risk. Even if you have a ticket, remember that you must arrive 15 minutes before showtime to ensure admission. Consider inevitable delays at the movie you´re currently seeing—10 minutes for the traditional late start and introduction, 15 minutes if you want to stay for the Q&A.

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Bus it
Park City’s free buses can be useful, but keep in mind that they’re designed to service skiing tourists, and often make detours into resort areas. When you hop on the bus and ask the driver if he’s going to the Library, also ask how directly he’s going.

Don´t even think about driving

Driving is out. You may find a legal parking space, but you’ll more likely end up speeding from lot to lot, watching the start-time of your movie tick by. Park in one of the sanctioned Sundance lots in the morning and leave the car there until nightfall. Sundance shuttles may feel like an eternity when you ride them, but at least they drop you off at the theater.

Know your map
Study the route map early, so if two buses are about to leave when you arrive at a stop, you’ll know which one to hop on. Don’t be afraid to ask the volunteer at the stop if the bus for a certain route departed recently, or if one is expected soon. Avoid shuttle routes that go to the out-of-the-way Redstone Theater or the traffic death-trap known as Main Street en route to your destination. Traffic gridlock around some Park City venues is not uncommon—which means even your shuttle bus might get stuck. Traffic is at its worst in the late afternoon and early evening, so allow extra time.

Do´s and don´ts of eating fast and on the cheap
As if it isn’t enough to worry about whether you can sprint or shuttle yourself to the next theater before your screening starts, your body operates under the wacky notion that it needs nourishment. Add Park City’s collection of expensive sit-down restaurants with hour-long lines, and trouble is afoot. Luckily, there are some speedy eating options.

Prospector Square/Eccles/Racquet Club: There are a couple major catches to buying food at the Eccles Theatre concessions. First, the price gouging is so obscene that you don’t care if proceeds benefit a high school program. Second, you can’t bring your food or drink into the auditorium, and the Sundance staff won’t let you into the lobby until they’re ready to let people in the theater, giving you little time to eat. You’d do better to cross Kearns Boulevard and enjoy the Prospector Square area, which has more quick-food options than any other part of town.

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If you walk to the strip mall at 1890 Bonanza Drive, at the intersection of Bonanza and Prospector, you’ll find an oasis of fast-dining options. The popular El Chubasco serves up efficient, tasty Mexican food. If you can’t guess Souperman’s specialty then you probably suck at spelling, or at least don’t grasp puns. Nick-N-Willy’s Pizza is a take-and-bake franchise, but they also make personal pizzas to order. It takes about 10 minutes, so it isn’t the speediest pizza in town, but it’s guaranteed fresh. And Einstein Bros Bagels is always handy for coffee and a snack. Beyond bagels, it has sandwiches, salads and soup. Across Prospector, Taco Maker/ Jake’s Over the Top (1640 Bonanza Drive) offers Mexican and American fast-food, plus milkshakes if the weather’s too warm for you. If you prefer your fast food with weight-losing spokespeople, there’s a small Subway (1650 Bonanza Drive) nestled beside the nearby condo complex. The Lot G shuttle stop is the closest option for all these restaurants.

Holiday Village, Yarrow and before you shuttle to the Temple: Don’t underestimate the power of a grocery store. Fresh Market (1800 Park Ave.)—formerly Albertsons—is a wondrous thing during the film festival. Remember fruit? You can get some here, along with pastries, sandwiches, salads, donuts, snack foods and a variety of beverages.

Between the Holiday Village and Fresh Market, you’ll find Sushi Maru (1776 Park Ave.). It’s a sitdown place and a tad pricey, but it doesn’t take too long to get your order rolled. The sushi here is well-regarded, and the interior much more charming than you’d expect from the strip-mall facade. (Sundance veterans, take note: Atlantis Pizza, next door to Maru, has closed.) If flamebroiled beef served fast is your preference, there’s always a Burger King farther down the parking lot (1720 Park Ave.).

Library and Main Street: Park City’s charming Main Street is loaded with restaurants, but, unfortunately, they’re swarming with stars, big shots and gawkers. Even grabbing a coffee and croissant at Java Cow (402 Main). can turn into a half-hour ordeal when the crowds are heavy. The fastest place I’ve found is Red Banjo Pizza (322 Main St.), which offers relatively quick pizza by the slice to go. It doesn’t take too long to sit down for a pizza, sandwich, salad or pasta dish, either.

You may find faster food en route from the library to Main Street on Park Avenue. Davanza’s (690 Park Ave.) serves pizza by the slice, burgers and fries, sandwiches and subs and tacos.

Sundance Survival Guide

The Movie Buff Manual
The People Watching Manual
Park City in 1 Day Manual
Sundance in SLC Manual

click to enlarge reels.jpg

The People Watcher's Manual
How to play a paparazzo for a week in Park City.

By Scott Renshaw

We’re not here to judge: Some folks revel in the brush with celebrity that comes from Utah turning into a slice of Hollywood each winter. Here’s what you need to know if you want to play amateur paparazzo for a week.

Park and Watch in Park City
The stretch of Main between the Kimball Art Center and the Egyptian Theatre can be filthy with bundled-up celebrities just strolling by—but you’re not likely to spot them if you’re strolling, too. Picking a window seat to grab lunch and observe the human parade is best, and you’ll find that the stretch from noon to 4 p.m.—after everyone’s finally awake, and before they head indoors for the private dinners and parties—is prime time for finding folks just out for some fresh air.

Sleep In
Don’t bother getting up early. It’s true that many stars are in town to promote a movie, but they’re also vacationing in the mountains—and that means late-night revelry. You’re not likely to find familiar faces strolling down Main Street at 9 a.m.; you may not even find them at screenings for the movies they’re in at 9 a.m. Filmmakers will be there for Eccles Center 9:15 screenings, but don’t count on cast members coming along after the premiere the night before.

Premieres Your Best Bet
Eccles evening Premieres are king. The red carpet photo walk at the back of the theater is a credentials-only affair, though you might be able to catch a quick peek if you’re in the right place at the right time. Best to actually try to get inside the theater, where you can count on most of the available talent being there for the first public screening.

SLC Not the Place to Be
It might be easier to get tickets to screenings at the Rose Wagner, but don’t go because you think you’ll rub elbows with beautiful people. Actors in particular rarely make their way down the mountain to the local screenings of Premiere category films, generally inspiring a groan of disappointment from the crowd when announced; filmmakers are more likely to be on hand. If you do get someone for a Q&A, consider it a pleasant surprise.

Where Celebs Hang
The Park City Marriott Hotel in Prospector Square is the official Sundance headquarters, a place where publicists and their charges congregate. Hanging out on a chair in the lobby can be one of the best, warmest and most inconspicuous ways to spot famous folks, and the streets near the hotel provide some of the only available free parking in the city if you grab a spot early enough in the day.

Afternoons in Park City offer the best chances to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, much better than parties, even those in bars. In short, don’t bother with the parties. Even if you manage to get into the venues—which you probably won’t—you’ll find that everyone who’s supposed to be anyone is doing the VIP thing.

Sundance Survival Guide

The Movie Buff Manual
The People Watching Manual
Park City in 1 Day Manual
Sundance in SLC Manual

click to enlarge reels.jpg

The One-Day Park City Manual
You don't have to quit your job to get the full festival experience.

By Scott Renshaw

Yes, we know: Some people have lives and jobs to attend to during festival week. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend one weekend day getting the full flavor of the Park City Sundance experience, provided you’re willing to get an early start and follow some helpful hints.

Early Rising
Make an early morning of it. Some of the fun of the Sundance experience is about running on adrenaline—and another part is finding parking. Give yourself sufficient time to hit Park City no later than 8 a.m.; it takes anywhere from 40-60 minutes from most Salt Lake Valley locations, not factoring in possible weather. The Monitor Drive parking lot is free all day on Saturday; on Sunday, consider The Yard pay-park-and-ride lot or street parking in the Prospector Square area.

Catch a shuttle to the Eccles Theater. Not only is it the grandest Sundance venue—offering the best opportunity to get in from the wait list, especially for the 9:15 a.m. screenings—but it’s probably the best place to get a little glimpse of celebrity, if you’re fortunate enough to get in, enjoy the show, and stick around for the filmmaker Q&A. If not, don’t panic—and consider your conversation with fellow giddy waitlisters part of the entertainment.

Do Main Street
After your morning screening, it’ll be the perfect time to catch a shuttle to Main Street. Get off at the Main Street transit center, and walk up toward the Egyptian Theatre. Soak up the energy as you take your high-altitude stroll; keep your eyes open, as you never know what famous face will zip by buried under a parka hood. Enjoy watching the crowds that gather around photographers, wondering what celebrity may be about to emerge through a doorway.

When you’re done looking around, find a spot for a leisurely lunch (see Movie Buff Survival Manual for dining suggestions), catching the shuttle to your preferred destination, if necessary. And enjoy the shuttle experience, too—be sure to read the name badges of your fellow travelers, because you never know whom you’ll be sharing a ride with.

Maybe your early wait-list attempt didn’t pan out. Or maybe it did, and it got you enthused about trying again. Peruse the Film Guide and Screening Timetable, and find something for which you’ll have a healthy two-hour head start. Take the shuttle to your chosen venue, grab a place in the wait-list line and start up some conversations with your line-mates. Festival attendees’ stories can be as entertaining as some of the films.

Night Time
Grab some dinner, then hit Main Street again before heading home. There’s an entirely different vibe to the festival hub once the sun goes down and everyone’s jockeying for room at the parties. Get in the middle of it, and you’ll hit your own comfy bed that night with a keen sense for what Sundance is all about.

Sundance Survival Guide

The Movie Buff Manual
The People Watching Manual
Park City in 1 Day Manual
Sundance in SLC Manual

click to enlarge reels.jpg

The SLC Attendee Manual
Get to know the Salt Lake City venues and surrounding areas.

By Scott Renshaw

With the advent of the Locals Quick Pass a decade ago, it became easier than ever for Utah residents to get in some marathon Sundance viewing. Get to know your Salt Lake City venues and the surrounding businesses, and learn how to get the most out of your down-in-the-valley Sundancing.

Consider public transportation. If you’re coming into downtown from the ’burbs, and you’re sticking to films at the Broadway Theater, Main Library and Rose Wagner Center venues, TRAX might be your best transportation option. The Gallivan Center stop (200 South) lands you almost exactly midway between the three locations, with a couple blocks of each venue. And with a short distance between the Broadway and the Rose, a brisk 10-minute walk will get you from one to the other. Even those coming from more central locations might want to use the Ballpark TRAX park-and-ride lot to avoid downtown parking hassles.

Meter Park At Your Own Risk
If you do drive, metered street-parking stalls are free after 6 p.m. on weeknights, if you can manage to find one. But avoid attempting to stake out one spot all-day on Saturdays, as you can get ticketed for exceeding the two-hour limit. You can get validated for the parking garage next to the Broadway Theater, but if you’re taking in more than a single show, you’ll need to go through the hassle of exiting and re-entering, or parking in the pay lots nearer to the Rose Wagner Center if you’re changing venues. There is nearby street parking for the Main Library, as well as an underground garage.

Close & Easy Food Bets
Like your Park City counterparts, you may find yourself trying to grab the quickest possible bite between showtimes. Fortunately, the three-block corridor on 300 South between the Broadway and Rose Wagner Center—plus a block in either direction off the major cross streets—offers numerous options. For a burger or sandwich, try Jimmy John’s (14 E. 300 South), Toasters (30 E. 300 South), or Rich´s Mighty Fine Burgers & Grub (30 E. 300 South); grab a burrito at Barbacoa (280 S. Main); snag a slice of pizza at Sicilia (111 E. 300 South) or Pier 49 (238 S. Main). If you have a bit more time to sit down, there’s Asian fare at Cindy Lee Café (264 S. Main) or P.F. Chang’s (174 W. 300 South); eclectic lunch & dinner dining at Atlantic Café (325 S. Main); and great pub grub at Squatters (147 W. 300 South). For fancier dinner-and-a-movie consideration on a less densely-packed moviegoing schedule, try Christopher’s (110 W. 300 South) or Eva (317 S. Main). About halfway between the Broadway and Rose Wagner is the Sundance Film Festival Cafe at the Beehive Tea Room (12 W. 300 South), which will add evening live music performances (7-9 p.m.) to its assortment of sandwiches, soups and desserts. Please note that not all establishments are open seven days a week; check ahead for hours at the time you’ll be in the neighborhood.

Tower Power
We haven’t forgotten about the other Salt Lake City venue; it’s just not exactly walking distance from the other two. And transportation time is definitely something to factor into your plans. Though epic traffic-light convergences might allow you to get from the heart of downtown to the 9th and 9th neighborhood in 10 minutes, assume at least twice that much time for travel to the Tower from the downtown venues—or vice versa—and finding parking. Don’t make the mistake of parking in the Smith’s grocery store parking lot, either, as you may be towed.Close & Easy Food Bets
Grabbing a bite near the Tower can be a bit tricky if you’re tight on time. A nearby Barbacoa (859 E. 900 South) can hook you up, and you can get a cup of joe and a pastry at Coffee Garden (878 E. 900 South). But other spots in the vicinity— Mazza (912 E. 900 South), Pago (878 S. 900 East) and Thai Garden (868 E. 900 South)—will require a bit more sit-down time.

Timing Is Everything
Build the right amount of time between screenings. Can you really make it from the Rose Wagner screening ending at 5:02 to the one at the Tower that starts at 5:30? See above for at least part of that answer; another part depends on the always tricky matter of when the screenings actually begin. Don’t be surprised if waitlisters filling in seats or other logistical issues cause your screening to begin five to 10 minutes later than the scheduled start time. If you’re going from one venue to another, and unless you’re fond of panicked dashes or hyperventilating at red lights, play it safe by allowing at least 40 minutes between the scheduled end of one film and the start of the next—and that’s assuming you don’t plan on eating during that intermission. You can get by with less—20 minutes or so—if on foot between the Broadway and Rose Wagner.

Sundance Survival Guide

The Movie Buff Manual
The People Watching Manual
Park City in 1 Day Manual
Sundance in SLC Manual

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