First-Timer’s Guide to Sundance Film Festival
You don’t have to run in VIP celeb circles to have a great time at the indie film festival. Get recommendations from Park City locals and longtime attendees for how to make the most of your stay
Every January, Hollywood heavy-hitters, Tinseltown ingenues, and indie-film buffs descend on Park City for the Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prestigious and legit events of its kind in the world. Sundance is a professional players’ game. While non-industry folk are welcome and encouraged to attend, the lineup is geared toward distributors, directors, and other movie pros scoping out talent and the next great films. Started in 1978 by actor Robert Redford, Sundance saw the birth of some of the best indie films of the last four decades (Garden State, Reservoir Dogs, and Winter’s Bone, to name a few). And there’s no shortage of celebs who show up to promote their passion projects. But you don’t have to have an Oscar nod to enjoy the festivities. We polled locals and other Sundance aficionados to find out how to have a rollicking time, regardless of who you know, how much you actually love movies, and what you’re willing to spend.
How to see movies
Tickets go on sale as early as August, and those who sign up first are most likely to get entry to choice films. If you find yourself at the festival with no pre-ordered tickets, you have some options: Purchase day-of tickets at the box office for $20-$25 starting at 8 a.m., or download the Sundance app and get on a waitlist. Bold festival-goers may consider walking up and down the line of the movie you want to watch and asking if anyone has extra tickets. Early morning and late night shows tend to have more open seats as revelers party into the late night and sleep in the next day. Also, theaters in nearby Salt Lake City (40 minutes away) tend to be less crowded. For full ticket information check out Sundance’s ticket guide.
Where to stay
Park City is tiny and hotels sell out way in advance for higher rates than usual. If you can, snag a room at the Waldorf Astoria or Main & Sky, where many A-listers stay. If you’re going to do it big, go all out, right? The best options for beating the crowds and price tags include finding a spot in Salt Lake City (Hotel Monaco is a solid choice), or renting a condo in Deer Valley. The latter location also has some of the poshest resorts around, like Stein Erikson Lodge, preferred by powder hounds with a taste for a wilderness chic aesthetic and its ski-in, ski-out access to Deer Valley Resort.