While the official festival film kicks off Thursday night, the unofficial Sundance fun festival peaks this weekend.
"The number of events this year is up -- way up," Christopher Ryan, creator of the coveted private master grid of Sundance events that makes its rounds in Hollywood each January, told TheWrap.
And everything's open for a corporate activation. "The name of my list might change if I have a brand sponsor it," Ryan says.
With that caveat, TheWrap has chosen the buzziest in advance. Here are the places to be seen:
Best Place to Scout the Next Big Things Now
Before Jennifer Lawrence hunted in “The Hunger Games” or broke out in “Winter’s Bone," she was a Gen Art Fresh Face in Film. “All the attention goes to creative individuals who are already getting all of the attention,” Gen Art’s Jeff Abramson told TheWrap. Seth Rogen associate Ari Graynor and Lizzy Caplan are on the 2012 slate for the post-dinner cocktail party on Friday night.
Best Place to Park It: Bing Bar
It’s also the best bet to see Robert Redford. He hosts the annual “Day One” press conference at the three-story complex that takes over the Claim Jumper hotel.
As an official partner of the film festival, Microsoft’s search for a talent lineup got results for every day part and entertainment category. The veritable Club Med even has its own cruise director, Ross Matthews, who’s the in house correspondent for digital broadcasts.
(Pictured, Florence and the Machine rock Bing Bar last year.)
Talent ranges from feature figures William H. Macy, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bruce Willis, to buzz bands like Group Love and Theophilus London, nightly headliners Drake, Wiz Khalifa and Jason Mraz, and even comedy with popular podcaster Marc Maron sharing the stage with Aziz Ansari on Saturday night.
The six-day cruise sets sail on Friday and lasts longer than most of the other spaces, wrapping up Wednesday.
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Follow the credentials and flashbulbs to the stairs at the bottom of Main Street. The T-Mobile/Google Music Village at the Lift is back.
After trotting out Drake, Maroon 5 and Bustah Rhymes to Google Music’s LA launch in November, T-Mobile’s monstrous complex will one-up itself in Park City with nightly performances. But for all those sporting credentials that get them waived behind the barricade during the day, beware. Those credentials don’t mean a thing a night.
Nightlife gurus from celeb friendly TAO will convert the 5,000-square-foot underground garage in to a satellite nightclub. One of the more entertaining visuals at Sundance is watching the national convention of scenesters from both coasts converge on the entry.
When every attendee is a VIP, badgering familiar host Deb Grimmel for the expedited entry they’ve come to experience in L.A. and Vegas falls flat. “Don’t go to ‘Florence and the Machine’ early and show up at cool guy hour (i.e. 12:40 AM),” Grimmel barked at the freezing crowd last year.
Inside, it’s a nightly United Nations of the talent, agents, publicists, nightlife honchos, famous DJ’s, famous DJ’s almost-famous managers, and anyone who’s ever played a role in engineering the modern Hilton/Kardashian complex.
Best Bedfellows: Official Sundance Partners
Official festival sponsors will be hosting marquee names. Paul Simon launches Sundance Channel’s “Iconoclasts” series at Grey Goose’s Blue Door with a panel discussion on Monday. (Simon is a series alum, participating in an episode with Lorne Michaels). Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Elijah Wood, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Seth Rogen are all passing through this weekend.
Over at the Park City Museum, official auto Acura has a Paul McCartney customized ride. In addition to putting the cars in this summer’s “Avengers” film, McCartney’s ride will be auctioned off back in L.A. at the MusiCares mega-gala honoring the ex-Beatle on Grammys weekend. During the day, Acura’s studio is open to the public.
The big group tables at Chefdance lead to lots of card passing and Iphone “bumping”.
Of its five-night run, Monday is the hot invite. Iron Chef Judge Donatella Arpaia puts her own cuisine to the test for Spike Lee and the “Red Hook Summer” company. Upstairs at the newly renamed Park City Live (formerly known as “Harry O’s”) LMFAO and Deadmau5 will be rattling the floor on opening weekend).
The LiveStyle Entertainment Supper Club from Tribeca, Toronto and Cannes returns to 628 Park Avenue. James Beard Award winners Christopher Lee and Todd English cook for Emily Blunt’s cast (“My Sister’s Sister”) among others
Women in Film’s gathering moves from Sunday to Monday, and from Main Street to a private residence in Park Meadows. WIF President Cathy Schulman, the Sundance Institute’s Pat Mitchell, and Keri Putnam host the power brunch.
Monday’s “Bachelorette” dinner with producer Will Ferrell, Kirsten Dunst and James Marsden by Joico will go head to head with Robin Bronk’s non-partisan Creative Coalition Spotlight dinner, the closest thing to a gala at Sundance. In this election year, it should be especially energized. Common, Kate Bosworth, Annalynne McCord and John Hawkes already have place cards waiting.
The days of US Weekly running multi-page photo spreads of Sundance celebrity gifting suites are over. The paradigmatic freebie flutter captured in the classic 2005 “Entourage” Sundance episode has morphed. While there’s been a downturn in actual number of suites, branded “experiences” have swelled to fill the spaces.
At the base of the mountain, Vermont snowboard pioneers Burton open a local embassy including an Après Lounge, gear, and rides with pros. (At left, Penn Badgley rides with Danny Davis last year.)
Back on Main Street, Oakley’s Learn to Ride program lures bold facers with private one hour lessons and customized kits in a branded space otherwise known as Danny Masterson’s Park City bar, “Downstairs”.
By night, the same space becomes the local satellite of L.A. (and now Vegas) hotspot Hyde Lounge. The metal clasps on entrepreneur Sam Nazarian’s velvet rope will naturally be extra sticky in the cold.
Nintendo’s 3DS experience isn’t just about photos with Mario and his handheld gaming device. Their in-house glam squad will even be making house calls.
The suite survivors include the Eco Hideaway (Spa services at host Stein Eriksen Lodge) and originator Kari Feinstein’s Style Lounge (Ipads and Koolaburra Boots). The Solstice Sunglasses Boutique is a bit more egalitarian, gifting a few lucky “civilians” shades each day on opening weekend.
Best Ways to Beat the Chill
The Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet ladels free soup all day (for two), while the Miami Oasis brings a taste of South Beach to the T-Mobile Lift while promoting their own upcoming film festival in March.
By day the Stella Artois diner at the Lift serves up free breakfast and lunch. In past years, Kirsten Wiig shuffled between tables and an eager unproduced Bostonian pushed a DVD of his film in to Ben Affleck’s hand over pancakes. For a more casual gear, social games like foosball await at the Puma Social next door, a clubhouse pop-up space that previously took over Sunset Boulevard.
On Sunday afternoon, “Reality Bites” is back. Ben Stiller hosts a screening and post-panel with producers Michael Shamberg, Stacy Sher, and writer Helen Childress. Come prepared: You can’t buy concessions on a gas card at the Egyptian.
The folks behind STK and the Gansevoort hotels in Miami and New York introduce “Goodnight Gansevoort” this year. Opening each night at midnight, guards should be down inside The One Group’s perennially slick venues. By way of introduction, Continuum Entertainment’s all black invite says “Lights Out”.
Take note that all of these events are private and by confirmed RSVP only. Check your phone twice. It’s cold on the sidewalk.