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Sundance Announces Live and Online Presentation Details of Its 2021 Festival

Park City's main street with a snow-covered mountain looming in the background, the Egyptian Theater in clear view.Photo: Kelsey Doyle, courtesy Sundance Institute.

The Sundance Institute announced details of its 2021 edition — plans that will see Sundance offer titles to home audiences via a custom-designed online platform while socially-distanced live events (continent upon local health and safety guidelines at the time of the screenings) will occur in Park City, Utah as well as at a number of “satellite screens” across the country.

Running January 28 – February 3, 2021, the Sundance Film Festival will stream its more than 70 features in three-hour blocks throughout the day, with films beginning simultaneously “to preserve the energy of a Festival,” according to the press release. Films will be accompanied by live Q&As and then will return to the platform two days later for a 24-hour on-demand windows.

“Even under these impossible circumstances artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can,” said debuting Sundance Festival Director Tabitha Jackson in the press release. “So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can. The core of our Festival in the form of an online platform and socially distanced cinematic experiences is responsive to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are. And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S. we are not putting on our Festival alone. At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique — a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed.”   

“Our Festival footprint has changed this year, but we are excited to bring an incredible community together in new ways to engage with new artists and new stories — whether they’re joining us for the first year or have been for decades,” continued Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam. “Our ambition is for everyone to come together, safely, wherever they may be, and participate in screenings on our platform at the same time. The Sundance team has consulted with artists, worked with incredible partners, and built a plan to welcome new audiences and capture a true Festival spirit.”

The Festival’s vibrant New Frontier section will continue with 14 works accessible via computer and VR headsets and within a virtual platform offering interactive social activities and connection. Sundance’s Short Film and Indie Series (formerly Indie Episodic) will include 50 short films and four episodic premieres and will be available via the platform for the full run of the festival.

All feature titles will be available to U.S. audiences through the Shift72-powered movie player, with some films opting for global availability. (Shift72 also powered the Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival’s players.) Along with the New Frontier, Short Films and Indie Series selections, the festival’s talks and events programming will be available worldwide. Various elements of the live Sundance experience, such as Festival Village, Main Street and the Festival Lounge, will receive online recreations, with the former offering “a free-to-all space where Satellite Screens, partners, and Festival sponsors will host a wide range of events, programming, and offerings to complement and enrich the official program.”

As for the live screenings, they’ll be programmed by Sundance at the The Ray in Park City and at the Rose Bowl and Mission Tiki Drive-Ins in Los Angeles. The various Satellite Screen partners “will create and host their own events, sharing local cultural conversations with broader Festival audiences, with most also screening selections from the 2021 program.” Commented Jackson, “These partners are the backbone of independent artistic communities across the country, where filmmakers are born and cinephiles are developed,” said Jackson. “We’re entering these partnerships because a healthy ecosystem for artists and audiences requires that independent cinemas across the country survive and thrive.”

The Sundance Film Festival’s program selection will be released later this month, and additional details regarding the Satellite Screens will evolve alongside their local areas’ COVID-19 pandemic health and safety guidelines.

Participating U.S. partner organizations and Satellite Screen locations include: 

Alabama: Birmingham with Sidewalk Film Festival

Sidewalk Film Center, Sidewalk Drive-In

Arizona: Tucson with The Loft Cinema 

The Loft Open Air Cinema 


Montclair with American Cinematheque

Mission Tiki Drive-In

Pasadena with the Rose Bowl

Rose Bowl Drive-In

San Francisco with The Roxie Theater 

Roxie Theater, Fort Mason Drive-In

Colorado: Denver with Denver Film

Sie FilmCenter


Key West with Tropic Cinema

Tropic Cinema, The Key West Lighthouse, The Truman Little White House, The Ernest Hemingway House and Museum

Miami with Third Horizon and O Cinema 

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center


Atlanta with Atlanta Film Society

The Plaza Theater, Plaza Drive-In, Dad’s Garage Drive-In

Macon with Macon Film Festival 

Douglass Theatre

Hawaii: Honolulu with Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA)

Iowa: Iowa City with FilmScene

FilmScene at The Chauncey

Kansas: Wichita with mama.film

mama.film microcinema, Wichita Art Museum, Groover Labs

Kentucky: Louisville with The Speed Art Museum

Speed Art Museum

Louisiana: New Orleans with New Orleans Film Society 

The Broad Theater

Maryland: Baltimore with Maryland Film Festival

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theater

Massachusetts: Brookline with Coolidge Corner Theatre  

Coolidge Corner Theatre

Michigan: Detroit with Cinema Detroit

Minnesota: Minneapolis-St. Paul with FilmNorth

Riverview Theater

New York: Pleasantville with The Jacob Burns Film Center 

Jacob Burns Film Center & Media Arts Lab

Ohio: Columbus with Gateway Film Center

Gateway Film Center

Oklahoma: Tulsa with Circle Cinema

Circle Cinema, Circle Cinema Drive-In, Admiral Twin Drive-In, Philbrook Museum, OSU-Tulsa, Tulsa University, Gilcrease Museum

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia with BlackStar Film Festival

Puerto Rico: San Juan with Asociación de Documentalistas de Puerto Rico (AdocPR)

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR)

South Carolina: Columbia with The Luminal Theater

Spotlight Cinemas Capitol 8


Memphis with Indie Memphis 

Malco Summer Drive-In

Nashville with Belcourt Theatre  

Belcourt Theatre


Austin with Austin Film Society

AFS Cinema

Dallas with Aviation Cinemas

Texas Theatre

Houston with Houston Cinema Arts Society

MoonStruck Drive-In, DeLUXE Theater


Park City

The Ray

Salt Lake City with Salt Lake Film Society


Seattle with Northwest Film Forum


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