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The Show Must Go On 

Sundance Film Festival to hold fully-virtual event for the second year.

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click to enlarge Guests wait in line for a screening at Park City's historic Egyptian Theater during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival - BENJAMIN WOOD
  • Benjamin Wood
  • Guests wait in line for a screening at Park City's historic Egyptian Theater during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival announced Wednesday that its 2022 event would be held in an entirely virtual format due to a surge in COVID-19 cases stemming from the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

Organizers had been working toward a hybrid festival format, with strict vaccination and testing requirements in place for its in-person venues. But Wednesday’s announcement said it would be “irresponsible” to proceed as planned and burden Summit County health services.

“This was a difficult decision to make,” the Sundance announcement stated. “While it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah, 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 change in plans comes roughly two weeks before the festival is scheduled to begin. Organizers said the dates for the event’s programming would remain unchanged.

“In two weeks, we will gather together online to celebrate independent storytelling and introduce you to remarkable artists and their work,” the announcement stated. “The Festival will begin Thursday, January 20, 2022 as planned.”

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival was among the last large-scale public events in Utah held before the Coronavirus pandemic began in earnest. In 2021, Sundance moved to an online format, with its film screenings, panels and other events conducted virtually.

In typical years, the Sundance Film Festival is a significant economic driver for Utah. The Sundance Institute in 2019 reported its impact at more than $180 million, and a 2020 report by Y2 Analytics found that the event attracted roughly 120,000 guests.

“We believe in the transformative power of artists and their work,” the announcement stated. “Today, as we navigate all that the pandemic throws at us, we go back to what is certain: Gathering together—in whatever way we can—is profound. Community matters.”

Also on Wednesday, the State of Utah reported 7,247 new cases of COVID-19, as well as 44 deaths, bringing the state’s total loss of life from the pandemic to more than 3,800 people.

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Benjamin Wood

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