Since 1978, thousands of film and documentary fans flock to the snowy peaks of Park City, Utah for the last 10-day in January for the Sundance Film Festival. For some, it’s enough just to walk up and down the streets, dine next to celebrities, and maybe catch some turns on one of the best ski resorts in the country. But with just a little planning and some know-how before you get to town, you can do all of that and still catch first glimpse at the best new films of the year from known and promising filmmakers.
The Sundance Festival, among few others, is a preview of the Oscar-quality films that will hit the big screen for the coming year. There’s a lot to cover with your time at Sundance, but with a little planning you can get plenty of time on the slopes, hobnob with celebrities at movie premieres, and find tickets to all your favorite musical and off-site performances.
In the festival’s inaugural year, Park City did not boast the amenities and variety it does today. However, Historic Main Street maintains the historic aesthetics of a once-prosperous mining town, including the historic Egyptian Theatre.
The Egyptian Theatre, built in 1926, shortly after the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, is located at the heart of Historic Main Street. The theater’s candy apple-red doors and classic box office are staples of the Park City scene, and a hub for moviegoers for the Sundance Festival. The classic theater, fashioned after the Wamer’s Egyptian Theatre in Pasadena, CA currently seats 310 guests. While movies alone are presented during the festival, live performances hit the stage all year round with music, comedians, and, once a year, the locals get on stage with tongue in cheek for the Park City Follies: for four nights the Follies Creative Team pokes fun at their neighbors, and themselves, about politics, people, and community development to remind everyone not to take themselves too seriously. So when you hit town for Sundance, make sure you get a photo under the classic Egyptian Theatre marquee.
In addition to the Egyptian Theatre, eight other venues are transformed during the 10-day festival. All of these theaters will be presenting feature films, documentaries, and, always a crowd favorite, selections of short films, each about 10 minutes in length. While all of these locations are world-class venues to watch a film, you’ll want to plan your ticketing and transportation in advance to make sure to arrive early to secure seating.
New in 2018, there are two ways to ensure you see your preferred films. The first option is to purchase a Festival Pass. These are group packages that, depending on which package you choose, might allow you all-access screening for the first week, or the second week, or, if you prefer, you can choose a package by theater and location. There are off-peak packages as well, for those who want to see films before 11 a.m. or after 10 p.m. There are also 10-ticket packages for the first or second half of the festival. For the ticket package of your choice, visit the Official Sundance Film Festival Site for details and pricing.
Getting to the films and fun in Park City is a task not to be ignored. Although you can find numerous parking garages located on and around Old Main Street, these prime parking locations can be spendy and fill up very early.
To aid in congestion, Park City High School on Kearns Blvd. opens its parking lot to festival-goers where buses run a loop every fifteen minutes to transport people downtown. If you’re staying at a resort, take full advantage of the free shuttles they provide. And keep an eye out for other locations open for shuttles; spots will change and open up depending on the weather. The bussing system is free in Park City, so just be sure to dress warm, and come hungry.
One place not to be missed is Handle, just off Historic Main Street as you enter town. In his third season as executive chef/owner, Briar Handly has put Handle, and Park City, on the map for progressive (not pretentious) American cuisine. The vibe is casual and upscale, verdant and wooded, like dining in a comfortable cabin that serves exquisite food and brilliant cocktails.
Tupelo is just up the road if you want to head upstairs and sink into an overstuffed leather chair near flickering candles and overlook Main Street in a flurry of snow and moviegoers. And there’s nothing like a hot toddy around the fire once you get back to your lodge. Kick up your woolen feet on the hearth and have a nip of High West’s Rendezvous Rye. You can grab a bottle of Double Rye, American Prairie, or the peaty Campfire at the High West Saloon retail shop in the lobby of the restaurant, all on-site where master distillers make libations every day.