2019 Film Festival Issue | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

January 16, 2019 News » Cover Story

2019 Film Festival Issue 

Past stories lay the foundation for new ones in Park City.

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  • Courtesy Sundance Institute

How to Sundance 2019
It's not too late to be part of the festival with these tips and tricks.
By Scott Renshaw

Every Sundance year has its own feel—sometimes determined by the weather, sometimes by the political winds that are blowing, sometimes even by the movies themselves. Other things, however, remain relatively consistent, making it possible to navigate the festival—whether in Park City, or at Salt Lake City venues—with the benefit of insight from someone who has been attending since the 1990s. Here's a look at the basics for how to Sundance, whether it's your first time or your 22nd.

What's New in 2019. The main difference this year is the timing of the festival, which is getting started a week later as part of the agreement between the festival and Park City to avoid scheduling the festival during the tourism-lucrative Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

For locals, the Best of Fest screening tickets that had previously been distributed in person at the physical box office locations will now be part of the eWaitlist process (see "Seeing a Movie" for more details).

How to Get Around. Navigating Park City during Sundance week is a nightmare, and that's if the weather conditions are ideal. Traffic can be brutal on the main arteries of Park Avenue, Kearns Boulevard and Main Street. There is exactly one officially designated parking area—the China Bridge structure on Marsac Avenue—and it's ridiculously expensive ($40 per day, with no re-entry permitted) and likely to fill up completely by early morning on any given festival day. There are two park-and-ride options outside of Park City limits—Richardson Flat (off the Kearns Boulevard exit from Highway 40), and Ecker Hill (2500 Kilby Road, off the Jeremy Ranch exit from I-80)—that offer free shuttles to, respectively, the Eccles Theater and the Kimball Junction and Park City Transit Center stops.

If you still feel like braving Park City in your own vehicle, make your trek up the mountain as early in the day as possible. Find one of the limited (and free) street parking spots in Prospector Square, in the general vicinity of the Park City Marriott festival headquarters. Then leave your car and take the festival shuttle buses everywhere you need to go. Word of warning: Try to avoid heading out of town during the peak 4–7 p.m. period, no matter whether it's a weekday or weekend. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is expected, as locals getting off work and day skiers combine with festival traffic to create a perfect storm of frustration.

For a stress-free option, consider taking the PC-SLC Connect buses (UTA routes 901 and 902). The 901 leaves Saturday and Sunday only from the 3900 South (Meadowbrook) Trax park-and-ride at least twice daily to the transit center at Kimball Junction—where you can catch festival shuttles into town—and heads back down the mountain from the same stop. The 902 departs Salt Lake Central daily and stops at the Park City Transit Center. Best of all? The cost is a measly $4.50 per person each way, and someone else does the driving. (Visit rideuta.com for schedule and snow routing information; routes run limited hours each way.)

If you opt to do all of your Sundancing at Salt Lake City venues, you can still take advantage of public transportation. Three of the principal valley venues—Broadway Centre Cinema, the Main Library Theater and Rose Wagner Center—are a 10-15 minute walk from the Gallivan Plaza Trax stop. If you're headed from one of those clustered downtown venues to either the Tower Theatre or Grand Theatre, give yourself plenty of time for navigating weather conditions, parking (local streets around the Tower get particularly full) and making your way through the long lines.

Seeing a Movie. Oh yeah, you might also want to watch movies. Many screenings are officially sold out well before the festival begins, but in part that's to allow wiggle room for the many festival passholders who might attend any one of a number of films at a given time, and who might leave town before the end of the festival. That means taking advantage of waitlisting, which got considerably less stressful in the past few years with the addition of the eWaitlist. Download the official festival app, create an account, then select titles you want to see. You can get in the electronic queue for a movie two hours before its scheduled start time—on the dot, so have your trigger finger at the ready. Once you get a number for your virtual spot in line, you can decide whether you've got a good enough chance to make it worth your time to head over to the actual venue, where you'll need to be present no later than 30 minutes before start time, and have $20 cash only per ticket (or $10 for Kids section titles). Your odds for getting in will always be better at the larger venues—like Park City's Eccles Theater—as well as the earliest and latest screenings of any given day, when many festival attendees are either enjoying a party or sleeping off the previous night.

Of course, locals can also consider seeing the "Best of Fest" screenings on the Monday after the festival officially ends (Feb. 4, this year). Titles aren't announced until Sunday, Feb. 3, but they're all winners of festival awards, which certainly increases the odds that you'll see something great. Tickets are free, distributed via the festival's eWaitlist beginning two hours prior to each screening time (just like regular festival screenings). Valid Utah identification will be required for admission.

Stargazing: Celebrities turn up in Park City, most often to promote the movies that they're in, but sometimes just to be part of the festivities. Main Street is the center of gravity for such goings-on, and it's often easy to spot where the famous people are just by looking for clouds of paparazzi that seem to materialize out of nowhere. A lot of the time, you'll just pass a famous face on the street, or in a restaurant. But one of the easiest ways is simply going to their movie, especially if it's premiering at the Eccles Theater. Those screenings usually have a red-carpet photo-op before showtime, and if you're actually in the screening itself, look for the seats that have the "Reserved" signs and ropes over them. That's probably where you can spot your favorite actors getting ready to watch themselves on the big screen.

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