The Sundance Film Festival was set for later this month in Park City, Utah, but organizers are canceling the in-person event and going online due to the current coronavirus and omicron surge.
According to festival organizers, the event will begin as scheduled on Jan. 20 but take place online. Originally, the festival was going to be a hybrid event, with screenings available in Park City and online. Last year’s festival was virtual due to COVID-19.
“This was a difficult decision to make,” the festival said in a release. “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. The undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate.”
The festival made a great effort to keep this year’s event in person. Last month, when omicron started to spread, organizers announced that attendees would have to be boosted to attend. They also limited audience capacity and stated that no food or drink would be allowed in venues. Masking was also going to be required. However, in the end, they decided the measures weren’t enough.
This year’s programming for the event, according to Sundance director or programming Kim Yutani, “reflects the unsettling and uncertain times we’ve been living in for the past year and a half.”
“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 11-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services,” the festival added.
The Sundance Institute puts on the festival. The event, which takes place from Jan. 20 to 30, will feature 82 feature-length movies picked from more than 3,700 submissions.