When the Sundance Film Festival announced it was canceling all in-person events due to the pandemic two weeks before its start, festival-goers could be forgiven for thinking the party was over.
There would be no screenings at the Egyptian Theater in Park City, Utah. No swag lounges along Main Street. No celebrity sightings at the pop-up club in Tao Park City.
But that didn’t stop Rebecca Fielding, 34, who does customer engagement for an interior design firm in Manhattan, from boarding her flight. When she arrived last weekend, she spent the day at a spa before hitting a Main Street club with hundreds of drunk people dancing on banquettes and jostling on the dance floor.
“It’s so much fun,” she said as she walked closer to them. “So many people are here.”
Sundance may have gone virtual this year (screenings through Jan. 30 have gone live), but plenty of moviegoers and addicts still made the pilgrimage to Park City. Despite the lack of formal events, they found ways to party, chat, and even watch movies.
“It’s been bigger than years past,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, 45, a New York City documentary filmmaker who has organized accommodations and activities for hundreds of moviegoers during Sundance since 2007. I was surprised how many people were still willing to come in. We even had extra people after the festival was cancelled.
Through her film-going group, Goodside, she had arranged for 80 to 100 people to stay in 12 homes in Park City; guests had paid up to $500 a night for a room. (While Ms. Lee’s group allowed guests to redeem each other’s reservations, many hotel rooms and Airbnbs were either non-refundable or only eligible for a partial refund or credit when Sundance was cancelled. Most airlines only offered flight credits.)
Last Saturday night, Ms Lee hosted a screening of one of the festival’s most talked about films – Lena Dunham’s ‘Sharp Stick’, a comedy about a 26-year-old babysitter in Los Angeles who loses her virginity to his employer – in his six-bedroom mountainside rental home on Woodside Avenue, a few blocks from town.
About 20 people crowded onto sofas and the floor, drinking cocktails and munching on homemade dumplings and curried popcorn, while the film played on a screen that one of the guests had brought. To minimize risk, all guests were required to take a Covid test.
“There is enough critical mass that we can organize our own events,” said Ms. Lee, a former New York Times reporter. After the screening, there was a panel discussion about the film.
Other houses took turns showing films and hosting dinner parties. “We probably show five movies a day in homes,” Ms. Lee said.
After the screenings, the action moved to restaurants and bars around town. At Courchevel Bistro, patrons dressed in fur vests and leather pants dined on baked brie and elk. At No Name Saloon Bar & Grill, a rowdy sports bar nearby, waiters wore “Sundance 2022” shirts and served shots of tequila to dudes in flannel shirts and cowboy boots.
There seemed to be few celebrity-filled parties usually held during Sundance to promote films, fashion brands and other brands in need of publicity.
“Without the festival, we just had to be more creative in finding ways to entertain them,” said Lucien Alwyn Campbell, a VIP concierge for rent in Park City, who estimates that 40% of his Sundance customers still have made the trip this year. “There were four groups that went snowmobiling. Last night we hosted seven dinner parties with private chefs for clients who were renting homes. »
He also hosted house parties. “Usually people go to the Tao pop-up during Sundance,” said Mr Campbell, 37, “but we obviously didn’t have it this year, so we had to create late-night dance spots. “
Local bars and clubs, however, remained open and were, in fact, easier to attend as there were no invite-only parties. Downstairs, a popular Main Street club, offered a special lineup of DJs and VIP tables for as little as $100 for four.
On Saturday night, DJ Spider played a mix of hip-hop and house music to a crowded dance floor. By 10:30 p.m., the line to get in was 15 people deep; most of them appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, and many wore parkas and Canada Goose cowboy hats. Maskless revelers crowded the small dance floor until it closed at 2 a.m.
“On the way,” said a young waitress in a tight black ensemble, screaming to the song “I’m Too Sexy” as she pushed her way through the crowd with bottles of tequila.
Partly because it was at the last minute, the cancellation of Sundance this year didn’t seem to hurt local businesses as much as the year before, said Brooks Kirchheimer, president-elect of the Park City Chamber of Commerce. . “It’s been great for Park City,” he said. “Usually people come to town and sit in a movie theater for eight days. Now these people see Park City in a different light. They do different activities.
This includes skiing.
Many visitors commented that they had time to hit the slopes this year and that it was nice to take advantage of Park City’s great ski area and its lift along Main Street.
“I’ve been coming and going to Sundance since 2001,” said Elisa Briles, 47, communications manager for a San Francisco tech company. “It’s the first time I’ve focused on skiing during Sundance. Usually, I’m too busy going to the movies and partying.
Ms. Briles was taking an afternoon break at a bar in the St. Regis Deer Valley near the Vintage Room, a large greenhouse-like lounge that opened atop Deer Valley last month. This Friday afternoon, the lounge was filled with would-be festival-goers dressed in metallic snowsuits and furry boots, champagne and gourmet oysters.
“I wouldn’t say it feels like a film festival here, but it definitely feels like a really fun ski weekend,” Ms Briles said. “I am always with my friends. We always meet really cool people.