There are tons of film festivals around the country, but there’s just one Sundance. The flashy movie premieres, the pop-up clubs, the A-list actors — when Hollywood comes to Park City, Utah, it’s a blockbuster of a big deal. Even if you didn’t win anything at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast in the Wasatch Mountains from January 17 through 27. With these insider tips on everything from cinematic events to classy accommodations, the everyday movie buff can feel just like the stars.
What to Know
Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute has presented the Sundance Film Festival since 1985. Its mission is simple: to connect independent filmmakers with audiences. The height of the festival’s frenzy is always opening weekend, so if you want to mingle with paparazzi magnets and studio bigwigs, go then. If ticket availability is more important to you, book dates toward the end of the event and revel in the relative calm.
This year, 200 films will screen in nine Park City theaters (with satellite locations in Salt Lake City, Sundance Resort and Ogden). Skip the rental car; festival shuttle buses connect all Park City venues, and the town’s free bus system will ferry you from the event’s downtown hub to area hotels and ski resorts.
When it comes to snagging tickets to screenings ($15 apiece), there are three strategies to keep in mind. The first is to purchase tickets online, at least 36 hours before showtime, between Jan. 15 and 25 (or at the main box office between Jan. 15 and 27). You can also buy day-of-show tickets, available in limited amounts at 8 a.m. daily, at the main box office. The last option is to go directly to a theater two hours before a screening and get on a waitlist; tickets are dispensed to as many waitlisted guests as possible (one per person) 30 minutes beforehand.
What to See
Though there are many distractions at this temporary Tinseltown, your main goal is to attend a (preferably celeb-studded) film screening or two. With 12 categories ranging from Spotlight to Shorts, the festival’s program guide is hefty, so arrive with a plan. Two of this year’s hottest tickets are the premieres of jOBS, the Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, and Don Jon’s Addiction, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s feature-length directorial debut.
Art and music are also staking out a place in the film industry and becoming increasingly present at Sundance. To experience the best of both, check out the New Frontier showcase of multimedia installations and performances at The YARD event space or purchase a festival credential for access to stellar live music at Sundance ASCAP Music Café; past lineups have included songwriters from David Gray to LeAnn Rimes.
Rock fans, however, shouldn’t miss the inaugural concert of Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players on Jan. 18 at Park City Live on Main Street. The Foo Fighters frontman will perform with special guests from his Sundance documentary Sound City. And considering the film includes influential rockers from Fleetwood Mac to Metallica—and that the legendary Paul McCartney collaborated on the soundtrack—the performers at this show could be huge.
There’s no question the slopes rival the arts scene for fun during the festival. Park City Mountain, Canyons and Deer Valley resorts all boast serious mountains accessible from downtown, so follow the A-listers to their favorites and discover why Utah claims to have “the greatest snow on earth.”
Where to Party
Miami-based, jet-setter favorite Nikki Beach—which has permanent clubs in 10 cities—will make its Sundance debut with a beach-meets-snow pop-up club in The Sky Lodge’s rooftop lounge during opening weekend. This Main Street hotel, a hot spot for Sundance scenesters, is also home to two just-opened restaurants and the CW3PR RE:treat at The Sky Lodge, a lounge for bold-faced names and lucky non-celebrities. With Robert Redford’s restaurant, Zoom, right next door, The Sky Lodge will be people-watching central.
Village at the Lift returns for its 11th year at Sundance, once again hosting a TAO Nightclub pop-up throughout opening weekend. Food will be prepared by Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Los Angeles’ Son of a Gun and Animal restaurants, and other partners include Stella Artois and UGG Australia. These are just a few of the reasons the 30,000-square-foot Village at the Lift is reliably one of the festival’s best places to see and be seen.
Aside from hosting Grohl and friends, Park City Live will be a prime stop on the after-party circuit from Jan. 17 to 21 as it partners with Wynn Las Vegas to bring Sin City nightlife to Sundance. Party at the pop-up versions of Wynn’s Tryst, XS, Surrender and Encore Beach Club to hear the clubs’ resident DJs and surprise musical guests.
Where to Stay
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Montage Deer Valley—a quick ride from downtown Park City—is no stranger to throwing Sundance parties. The real reason to stay at the slopeside resort, though, is to enjoy a luxe respite from hobnobbing crowds. After a day at the theaters, head to Montage’s Vista Lounge to wind down; throughout the festival, the lounge’s Acoustic Music Café welcomes lead singers from well-known bands to play impromptu sessions for resort guests. Last year, frontmen from Guster, O.A.R. and Barenaked Ladies performed.
Check in to Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The St. Regis Deer Valley for a different set of Sundance perks. The St. Regis hotels are known for their sunset champagne sabering rituals and, during the film festival, the ski-in/ski-out St. Regis Deer Valley will offer private bottle-opening lessons with a resort sommelier. The lesson is $250 for the first person (which includes a bottle of Charles de Fère) and at the cost of the champagne for additional guests. The luxury hotel will also host its popular weekly Bloody Mary Clinic the two Thursdays of the festival, so you can go home with the recipe for the resort’s signature drink and party like you’re in Park City long after Sundance ends.
Photos Courtesy of Jill Orschel, Montage Deer Valley and Fred Hayes