When the Sundance Film Festival announced it was canceling all in-person events due to the pandemic two weeks before it started, 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 Tao Park City pop-up club.
But that didn’t stop Rebecca Fielding, 34, who manages client 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 hanging out at a Main Street club with hundreds of drunken people dancing on benches and bumping into each other on the dance floor.
“This is so much fun,” she said, as she made her way to join them. “There are so many people here.”
Sundance may have gone virtual this year (screenings through January 30 have gone online), but many movie buffs and followers still made the pilgrimage to Park City. Despite the lack of official events, they found ways to party, chat and even watch movies.
“This is bigger than in years past,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, 45, a New York City-based documentary film producer who has organized housing and activities for hundreds of movie buffs during Sundance since 2007. “I was surprised by how many people were still willing to come. We even got extra people after the festival was cancelled.”
Through her movie buff Goodside, she arranged for 80 to 100 people to stay in 12 houses in Park City; the guests had paid up to $500 a night for a room. (While Ms. Lee’s group allowed guests to buy out each other’s reservations, many hotel rooms and Airbnbs were non-refundable or only eligible for a partial refund or credit when Sundance was canceled. Most airlines only offered flight credit.)
Last Saturday night, Ms. Lee held a screening for one of the festival’s most talked-about films — Lena Dunham’s “Sharp Stick,” a comedy about a 26-year-old Los Angeles babysitter who loses her virginity to her employer — in her six-bedroom rented house. on Woodside Avenue, a few blocks from town.
About 20 people piled on benches and the floor, drinking cocktails and snacking on homemade dumplings and curried popcorn, while the film was projected on a screen that one of the guests had brought. To minimize the risk, all guests had to take a Covid test.
“There is enough critical mass to do our own events,” said Ms. Lee, a former reporter for DailyExpertNews. After the screening there was a group discussion about the film.
Other houses took turns showing movies and hosting dinner parties. “We probably show five movies a day in the houses,” said Ms. Lee.
After the screenings, the action moved to restaurants and bars in the city. At Courchevel Bistro, customers in fur vests and leather trousers dined on baked brie and elk. At No Name Saloon Bar & Grill, a rowdy sports bar nearby, servers wore “Sundance 2022” shirts and served tequila shots to packs wearing flannel shirts and cowboy boots.
Few seemed to be the celebrity-filled parties usually held during Sundance to promote movies, fashion labels, and other publicity-starved brands.
“Without the festival, we had to get more creative in finding ways to entertain them,” said Lucien Alwyn Campbell, a VIP concierge for hire in Park City who estimates 40 percent of his Sundance customers will still make the trip this year. has made. “There were four groups that went snowmobiling. We hosted seven dinners last night with private chefs for clients who rented houses.”
He also held house parties. “Usually people go to the Tao pop-up during Sundance,” said Mr Campbell, 37, “but obviously we didn’t have that this year, so we had to create places for people to dance late at night.”
However, local bars and clubs remained open and were, in fact, easier to patronize as there were no invite-only parties. Downstairs, a popular Main Street club, had a special lineup of DJs and VIP tables for just $100 for four.
On Saturday night, DJ Spider played a mix of hip-hop and house music on a packed dance floor. At 10:30 PM the line to get in was 15 people deep; most of them appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, and many wore Canada Goose parkas and cowboy hats. Mask-less revelers filled the tiny dance floor until closing time at 2am.
“Come on,” said a young waiter in a tight black ensemble, yelling over the song “I’m Too Sexy” as she made her way through the crowd with bottles of tequila.
Partly because it was so last-minute, this year’s Sundance cancellation didn’t seem to hurt local businesses as much as it did the previous year, said Brooks Kirchheimer, president-elect of the Park City Chamber of Commerce. “This has actually been great for Park City,” he said. “Usually people come to the city and spend eight days in a cinema. Now these people see Park City in a different light. They do different activities.”
That includes skiing.
Many visitors talked about how they really had time to hit the slopes this year, and how much fun it was taking advantage of the great skiing in Park City and the lift along Main Street.
“I’ve been with Sundance since 2001,” said Elisa Briles, 47, a communications manager for a technology company in San Francisco. “This is the first time I’ve focused on skiing at Sundance. Usually I’m too busy going to the movies and partying.”
Ms. Briles took an afternoon break at a bar in the St. Regis Deer Valley near the Vintage Room, a large, greenhouse-like lounge that opened last month atop Deer Valley. On that Friday afternoon, the lounge was packed with would-be festival-goers dressed in metallic snowsuits and furry boots, guzzling champagne and oysters.
“I wouldn’t say it feels like a film festival here, but it certainly feels like a really fun ski weekend,” said Ms Briles. “I’m still with my friends. We still meet really cool people.”