A Non-Insiders Guide: 8 Strategies for Getting Sundance Film Tickets
Sundance Film Festival, Utah: it's complicated to be cool. This is one of the lessons I've learned from a week of movie watching Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival.
Everyone knows that Sundance is the nation's premier independent film festival. But other than film industry insiders and Sundance groupies, almost nobody understands how to navigate the ticket dilemma for the annual January film fest based in the beautiful ski friendly Park city, Utah. Here is an insiders guide to getting tickets to the estimated 650 public screenings at the event.
The first thing you need to know, if you are a member of the general public is that the film festival is actually not built entirely for you, the consumer. It's an elaborate viewing edifice designed to showcase carefully curated films, documentaries, features and shorts to industry viewers. This year, 118 full-length features are being shown and represent about 3% of over 4000 films submitted. The vast majority of Sundance films being screened our world premieres. About half of the work is by international filmmakers and another half by Americans transforming Sundance into a global event. The 10-day festival is where film distributors discuss and view and make importantly deals for the films you and I will see or not see on TV, cable, online or in theaters large and small. Sundance is like a huge slingshot or launching pad for newly independent created films to find their way to audiences.
The public demand for film tickets usually outstrips supply and Sundance feels overwhelming. It gobbles up much of Park City. Events are held in the public library, high school auditoriums and local movie theaters. Restaurants, bars and even stores on Main Street are transformed into venues. The festival even sprawls into Salt Lake City a 45-minute drive away. If Sundance is a buyers market in terms of film distribution, it feels like a sellers market in terms of getting tickets for screening. It is estimated hundred thousand festival tickets go to industry people. Volunteers and locals understandably get upset when unable to get tickets to a festival that brings 50,000 visitors to their village. But the public is welcome as filmmakers love having real people in the audience.
Here are some strategies for getting tickets to Sundance.
1. Be an early bird and register in September. Prior to the festival you can register online in September. In October you'll receive an email with your personal timeslot where you can log into the Sundance website to select your ticket package. In December the festival releases the names of the films being shown. And in early January you login during your time slot and make your film selection online. Buyers are not guaranteed availability of anything.
2. Make a contribution as money greases all wheels and you can become a member of the nonprofit Sundance caps Institute. A partially tax-deductible 2500 Dollars Contribution advances your place in line. For packages and tickets.
3. Make friends with the local as locals have their own ticketing options and maybe they will share.
4. Volunteer. If you have more time than many think about volunteering. there are some 1800 volunteers and applications are due mid August.
5. Use Groupon. Sometimes Groupon gets promotional tickets for 50% discount. And with Groupon coupon that discount can reach 70%. Here are some tips on selecting your tickets. A lot a nice weekend in December to study the Sundance schedule once it's released. Make sure you juggle the timing as they run from early morning till midnight and transportation of festival shuttle buses is free but not always on time.
For every film you'd like to see find one or two acceptable alternatives. Always have a plan B. Looking for early-morning screenings is a good idea as people party late in Sundance. You can also consider Salt Lake City.
Individual tickets go on sale right before the festival begins and the day of show tickets are $20. Same-day tickets become available at 8 AM. There is also the E-waitlist app. Ticketholder lines start forming 40 minutes before a screening and one can ask whether anyone has extra tickets. One can also wait until the festivals last weekend to see the award winners. In general getting tickets to Sundance requires work. It takes almost as much time and attention is planning a trip abroad, but it's worth it.