As a recent transplant to Utah, I was excited to experience the Sundance Film Festival for the first time. This year’s festival was held January 19-29 and was split up among Park City, Salt Lake City, and the screening room at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Provo Canyon. We opted to stay nearby and attended films in Park City and Salt Lake.
Although passes and packages go on sale in late October – and were completely sold out by the time it even occurred to me to look – individual tickets don’t go on sale until roughly a week before the festival. Locals tickets are available to Utah residents in advance of the regular individual ticket sale but only for a 24-hour window. I set an alarm on my phone’s calendar about a month out so that I wouldn’t miss it. Or so I thought. The day came and, with the start of the semester, I didn’t remember until 6 hours after the tickets were available. Somehow, although practically everything was sold out, I was able to buy tickets to a screening in Salt Lake.
Sundance also offers a limited amount of day-of-show tickets, which are available at the box office starting at 8am, and an eWaitlist. I considered trying to get day-of-show tickets, but in the end I wasn’t motivated enough to be at the box office by 8am, so we tried out the eWaitlist instead. The eWaitlist is pretty simple. It can be accessed from a desktop or mobile device, from the Sundance website or app. Waitlists open up 2 hours before the film and numbers are assigned to each digital person. You can even link multiple people to your account so that when you join a waitlist you have the option of joining it alone or with your fellow moviegoers. Once your waitlist number has been assigned, you are given the likelihood of your admittance (although it differs from venue to venue, film to film). If people in front of you “leave the line,” you are given that information too. The only catch is that you must be in the waitlist line 30 minutes before the film’s start time or you forfeit your number and have to join the back of the line. If there are empty seats 10-15 minutes before the film begins, those seats are sold to the waitlist, $20 a pop.
We went up on Sunday during the first weekend of the festival to do some celeb-sighting (Elijah Wood!) and generally hang out to see what all the fuss was about. I had a couple movies picked out so we could try out the waitlist. I quickly learned that the popular films’ waitlists fill up within seconds! I tried to get us on the waitlist for Wind River (a movie we will definitely see when it hits theaters) and, even though I joined the list as soon as it opened, we ended up as numbers 259 and 260. Yikes. So I changed my tactic. I picked out a foreign film from Georgia, My Happy Family, joined the waitlist as soon as it opened and BAM! numbers 16 and 17!! We had a very high chance of getting in so we gobbled some donuts and left Main Street to get to the theater.
The biggest obstacle at Sundance in Park City is getting to your theater. Festival-goers are encouraged to take public transit and festival shuttles between theaters, even still, getting out of the downtown area does take time. We caught a bus, rode it directly to the theater, making it to the waitlist line with only 5 minutes to spare. Although we were #16 and 17, there were only 5 people in the line ahead of us – so sometimes it pays to just show up and see if your position in line has changed. We got into the film, had great seats (together!), and thoroughly enjoyed the film.
The following Friday we had tickets in Salt Lake to see The Hero, a poignant film about mortality with Sam Elliott, Nick Offerman, and Laura Prepon among others. It was nice to see the other side of things from the ticket-holders line. Then on Saturday we went back up to Park City. We strolled around Main Street briefly before hopping a shuttle to the theater for our final attempt to see a Sundance film. We had even better waitlist numbers this time – 13 and 14 – and got into the film fairly easily. As an added bonus, the woman in line next to us had extra vouchers she wouldn’t have the chance to use, so she gave them to us and we got into the film for free! This time we saw a foreign documentary, The Good Postman, which chronicled the mayoral race in a small Bulgarian village and centered around the village’s conflicting feelings toward Syrian refugees. Needless to say, it was a timely film.
All in all, our first experience at Sundance was really successful! Next year, my goal is to see a couple more films and hopefully catch one of them at the Egyptian.