Sundance 2021 to Extend Beyond Utah, Be Held in 20 Cities Nationwide and Online

Festival is in exploratory discussions with cinemas across the country to host films while full slate will still screen in Park City

Tabitha Jackson Sundance Film Festival
Courtesy of Sundance Org

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will adjust to the coronavirus by taking place not just in Park City, Utah where it has for near 40 years, but also in at least 20 different cities across the country, as well as in an online format.

Sundance’s new director Tabitha Jackson, who came aboard as director this year, revealed the news in a New York Times interview Monday and in a memo shared to press and said the festival is in exploratory discussions with cinemas in “LA to Louisville, from New York to Nashville, from Austin to Atlanta, from Detroit to Denver, from Minneapolis to Mexico City.”

Jackson says the festival will be co-created by and for the specific communities and will each host their own slate of films along with their own programming, while the full slate will still play in Park City.

“The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be a grand partnership of communities,” Jackson said in part in her memo. “Their communities acting as vibrant hubs of creativity, maker culture, and adventurous audiences. This plan acknowledges the vital role of the independent cinema network in our ecosystem.”

There will still be an online hub for the festival, with audiences able to view the curated program of films online, as well as take part in other live discussions and events. The idea is to limit the many live events taking place within Utah while keeping the structure of the festival in tact.

“The structure as we are currently conceiving it will remain intact — a festival that for this year is live and digital and is co-created with partners,” Jackson said. “A festival that will serve our communities where they want to be, given conditions of pandemic and economy. A festival that is more than the sum of its parts, but whose parts are all driven by values and the opportunity to think a different thought.”

Jackson adds that Sundance 2021 may also tinker with a new start date and a different length to the festival. Sundance is currently slated for January 21, 2021, but Jackson is eyeing a start date of January 28 to create room between the start of the festival and a potential presidential inauguration, though it does not seem to be adjusting to the delayed 2021 Oscars as other festivals, awards shows and events leading up to the Oscars have already done.

Sundance will additionally be looking to the guidance of the film festivals taking place this fall, many of which are plotting similarly hybrid online and in-person festival experiences to adjust to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We look forward to exchanging ideas and improving on the specifics over the coming months,” Jackson said. “Together we can thoughtfully build this special edition of the Sundance Film Festival, perhaps breaking some “rules” as we go.”