A neon sign in front of the Egyptian reading Sundance Film Festival lights up the night sky in Park City, Utah

Lights, Action, Sundance: The 2018 Sundance Film Festival

A neon sign in front of the Egyptian reading Sundance Film Festival lights up the night sky in Park City, Utah

Lights, Action, Sundance: The 2018 Sundance Film Festival

Thinking of attending the Sundance Film Festival 2018 in Utah? Here are some great reasons to mark this on your calendar now.

The stars shine brightly in picturesque Park City, Utah, when the Sundance Film Festival comes to town January 18 to 28, 2018. All the excitement of Hollywood infuses this ski hamlet as celebrities, movie industry movers and shakers, press, paparazzi, and fans fill the sidewalks. Crowds eagerly await world premieres of films, parties, and the grand finale, when the festival award winners are revealed. This year’s travelers should know the can’t-miss festival events, where to go, and what to do in Park City during the festival.

Cars are pictured driving down the winter street of Park City, Utah during the Sundance Festival, with buildings on either side and snow-covered mountains in the background
Source: Park City during Sundance Film Festival by Michael R. Perry used under CC BY 2.0

Now the nation’s largest independent film festival, the Sundance Film Festival has been drawing filmmakers to Utah since 1978, when it first debuted as the Utah/US Film Festival, chaired by actor, producer, and director Robert Redford. Sundance’s popularity has surged in the years since. In 2017, the festival drew more than 70,000 attendees.

The Best of Sundance

Events and happenings at the 10-day festival that are open to the public include screenings, panel discussions, parties, and, of course, star sightings as celebrities hobnob about town. Although most events take place in Park City, others are held at Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort, located about 35 miles south, as well as in nearby Salt Lake City and Ogden City.

Attendees can purchase passes online, with different levels of access to screenings, parties — including the Awards Party — to Meet the Industry panels and events, and to performances at the ASCAP Music Café. Spectators can also buy single tickets to screenings and events, as well as ticket packages.

Avy Kaufman and Lena Dunham are pictured behind a podium with the words Sundance film Festival on the wall behind them in Park City, Utah during the Sundance Festival
Source: Avy Kaufman and Lena Dunham by Punk Toad used under CC BY 2.0

Screenings often include world premieres of films that go on to become Oscar contenders, followed by Q∓A sessions with directors and cast members. This year, 100 Sundance feature films will be world premieres, giving movie buffs the opportunity to get a leg up on what’s to come.

Attendees can expect to see a diverse lineup of movies, including animated films, feature films, documentaries, and shorts. The Sundance Film Festival 2018 will present 110 feature-length independent films from 29 countries and the work of 47 first-time filmmakers.

Among feature films from the U.S., some of this year’s highlights include “Lizzie,” the story of the 19th-century axe-murderess Lizzie Borden, starring Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, and Jamey Sheridan, “I Think We’re Alone Now” with Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning, “The Kindergarten Teacher” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and “Nancy” with John Leguizamo.

Hot-ticket films will also include “RBG,” spotlighting firebrand Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Idris Elba’s “Yardie,” set in Jamaica, which marks his directorial debut.

Venues for talks, panel discussions, and workshops at Sundance include the Filmmaker Lodge and the Sundance House. Attendees smitten with movie soundtracks can gain insight about scoring films from noted composers and directors at the Film Music Showcase and the Film Music Roundtable. At the festival’s Music Café, both established and new talent perform daily.

Where to Eat at Sundance

Park City restaurants popular with the Sundance set include River Horse on Main, 501 on Main, and The Farm. River Horse on Main serves seasonal American cuisine, and The Farm offers modern American fare sourced from local farms. 501 on Main is a casual eatery featuring options such as authentic Mexican food, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and soups, including dishes for those with dietary restrictions. Large windows in 501 on Main’s upstairs dining room allow patrons to see what’s happening outside — and the possibility of spotting a star or two.

Movie goers line up to see films shown at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah
Source: Line for Red State by Raffi Asdourian used under CC BY 2.0

Getting Around Sundance

Much of the action at Sundance is centrally located, within walking distance of Main Street in Park City. Shuttle buses, taxis, and car services are available for getting into town from hotels, given the lack of available parking during Sundance.

Planning Ahead

Park City is a small town that gets extremely crowded, and hotels book up well in advance of the festival. Sundance attendees should also pack for cold January weather between 12 and 33 degrees Fahrenheit, also checking to see if heavy snow is in the forecast.

Visitors should familiarize themselves with the locations of screenings they plan to attend, as they will be held in Park City, Salt Lake City, and at Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort, which are all from 30 to 75 minutes away from each other.

Park City is located thousands of feet above sea level, so visitors should bear in mind that high elevations mean thin air, which can cause altitude sickness. Attendees will do best to stay hydrated and avoid overexertion, alcohol, and medications that suppress breathing rates.

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