Deadline reports that the in-person Park City, Utah component of the Sundance Film Festival this year has transitioned fully virtual for the second year in a row.
“The Festival’s in-person Utah elements will be moving online this year,” a statement from Sundance released today.
The news does not come as a surprise, considering that many entertainment industry events have either been postponed or canceled during the first two months of this year. Some sponsors for Sundance considered whether to pull from the live-Park City edition of the festival before the news broke. Festival buyers and talent reps also canceled their trips beforehand.
Sundance confirms that the complete segue to a virtual edition was influenced by the unpredictable spread of the Omicron variant. According to recent statistics as of January 3, there were 14,700 newly reported COVID-19 cases in Utah and 17 related Covid deaths. The irresponsibility health-wise to hold a festival bringing in roughly 116k people from around the world was also taken into consideration.
This decision comes 15 days before Sundance’s opening night. It will most likely be a considerable blow to local Park City businesses, hotels, restaurants, and hospitality who were counting on a return to financial normalcy after the 2021 festival went completely virtual last year. In 2020, the Sundance Film Festival reportedly contributed $135M to the state of Utah and generated over 2,700 jobs, yielding $17.8M in state and local tax income.
The statement provided by Sundance includes, “This was a difficult decision to make. As a nonprofit, our Sundance spirit is in making something work against the odds. But with case numbers forecasted to peak in our host community the week of the festival, we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk… While we’re disappointed to not provide the full hybrid experience and gather in-person as intended, audiences this year will still experience the magic and energy of our Festival with bold new films and XR work, the discovery of new storytellers, direct encounters with artists, and an innovative globally accessible social platform and gallery space.”