The popular festival heads online for a seven-day event.

By Joey Nolfi
December 02, 2020 at 03:00 PM EST
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Credit: Jemal Countess/Sundance Institute

One of the most exclusive cinema events in the world is expanding access to its prestigious content in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sundance Film Festival announced Tuesday its plans to roll out its 2021 slate across seven days via a custom-designed online platform, drive-in screenings, socially distanced arthouse events, and a network of local community partnerships in an effort to bring next year's edition to audiences around the world.

Beginning Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. MT, films from the upcoming Sundance slate will be available online (followed by a live Q&A) in the United States, with a portion of the estimated 70 feature-length projects also opting for global presentations. Special talks and events — in addition to the New Frontier section for XR and breakthrough media — will also be available internationally. Multiple films will simultaneously debut digitally on a three-hour schedule from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. MT in an effort to "preserve the energy of the Festival with an abundance of choices and collective experiences," according to the announcement.

Following their initial premiere, films will again be made available on demand two days later for a 24-hour period.

"Even under these impossible circumstances artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can,” said Festival Director Tabitha Jackson in a press statement. “So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can. The core of our Festival in the form of an online platform and socially distanced cinematic experiences is responsive to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are. And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S. we are not putting on our Festival alone. At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed."

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 28 through Feb. 3. Public tickets will be available beginning Jan. 7 through Sundance's website. Read on for full details — lifted directly from Sundance's announcement — about the event's planned rollout.

SHORT FILM, INDIE SERIES PROGRAMS

The Short Film and Indie Series (formerly Indie Episodic) programs, focused on creative storytelling outside the feature format, will include 50 short films and world premieres of four episodic works. These will be available on demand on the Festival platform for the full length of the Festival. 

NEW FRONTIER

Since its launch, the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier has served as a showcase for dynamic, innovative work at the crossroads of film, art, and technology — and 2021 is no exception, with 14 works in the program. For the first time ever, adventurous audiences around the world will be given the chance to engage with the works, the artists, and each other via a bespoke virtual platform, accessible via computer and VR headsets. The New Frontier Gallery hosts the complete slate of live performances, AR, VR, and other emerging media works. Cinema House is the festival’s fully immersive, big-screen theater, and Film Party is an interactive social space where the entire community of accredited festivalgoers can safely gather together again. The environment also features interactive tools such as proximity audio and video chat. 

SATELLITE SCREENS

Expanding beyond its Utah home, the festival has created a network of partnerships to bring feature films and customized local programming — talks, events, artist meet-ups — to communities across the country. In addition to these Satellite Screen partnerships, the Institute will program screenings at the Ray in Park City and the Rose Bowl and Mission Tiki Drive-Ins in Los Angeles, health and safety guidelines permitting. Each Satellite Screen will create and host their own events, sharing local cultural conversations with broader festival audiences, with most also screening selections from the 2021 program.

Alabama: Birmingham with Sidewalk Film Festival

Sidewalk Film Center, Sidewalk Drive-In

Arizona: Tucson with the Loft Cinema 

The Loft Open Air Cinema 

California: 

Montclair with American Cinematheque

Mission Tiki Drive-In

Pasadena with the Rose Bowl

Rose Bowl Drive-In

San Francisco with the Roxie Theater 

Roxie Theater, Fort Mason Drive-In

Colorado: Denver with Denver Film

Sie FilmCenter

Florida:

Key West with Tropic Cinema

Tropic Cinema, The Key West Lighthouse, The Truman Little White House, The Ernest Hemingway House and Museum

Miami with Third Horizon and O Cinema 

New World Symphony SoundScape Park and South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

Georgia: 

Atlanta with Atlanta Film Society

The Plaza Theater, Plaza Drive-In, Dad’s Garage Drive-In

Macon with Macon Film Festival 

Douglass Theatre

Hawaii: Honolulu with Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA)

Iowa: Iowa City with FilmScene

FilmScene at The Chauncey

Kansas: Wichita with mama.film

mama.film microcinema, Wichita Art Museum, Groover Labs

Kentucky: Louisville with the Speed Art Museum

Speed Art Museum

Louisiana: New Orleans with New Orleans Film Society 

The Broad Theater

Maryland: Baltimore with Maryland Film Festival

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theater

Massachusetts: Brookline with Coolidge Corner Theatre  

Coolidge Corner Theatre

Michigan: Detroit with Cinema Detroit

Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul with FilmNorth

Riverview Theater

New York: Pleasantville with the Jacob Burns Film Center 

Jacob Burns Film Center & Media Arts Lab

Ohio: Columbus with Gateway Film Center

Gateway Film Center

Oklahoma: Tulsa with Circle Cinema

Circle Cinema, Circle Cinema Drive-In, Admiral Twin Drive-In, Philbrook Museum, OSU-Tulsa, Tulsa University, Gilcrease Museum

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia with BlackStar Film Festival

Puerto Rico: San Juan with Asociación de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico (AdocPR)

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR)

South Carolina: Columbia with the Luminal Theater

Spotlight Cinemas Capitol 8

Tennessee:

Memphis with Indie Memphis 

Malco Summer Drive-In

Nashville with Belcourt Theatre  

Belcourt Theatre

Texas: 

Austin with Austin Film Society

AFS Cinema

Dallas with Aviation Cinemas

Texas Theatre

Houston with Houston Cinema Arts Society

MoonStruck Drive-In, DeLUXE Theater

Utah: 

Park City

The Ray

Salt Lake City with Salt Lake Film Society

Washington: 

Seattle with Northwest Film Forum

THE PLATFORM:

One of the fundamental values of the Sundance Film Festival is gathering: it’s a place where a global community of independent artists can convene for a generative and open exchange of ideas. This year, that will take place on the platform’s Festival Village, a free-to-all space where Satellite Screens, partners, and festival sponsors will host a wide range of events, programming, and offerings to complement and enrich the official program. The platform’s Main Street will act as both an homage to the iconic Park City thoroughfare and as an extension of the festival’s core programming, featuring digital partner spaces hosting conversations, musical performances, and more. The Artist Lounge will feature a space for creators to gather for artist programming, as well as for the festival’s Class of ’21 to network and celebrate at private events.

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