A few days into December, Warner Bros. announced that all of the movies it is releasing in 2019 will hit streaming and theaters at the same time. The fact that a major Hollywood studio is willing to dump an entire year’s worth of films onto HBO Max would seem to indicate that it doesn’t have much faith that things will return to normal anytime soon. At least not within the cinema industry.
After a year in which the second highest-grossing American film was “Sonic the Hedgehog” (which lucked out by being released in February), this feels like cause for despair.
But if the Sundance Institute, which runs the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States, has anything to say about it, there will be great films to be seen in theaters within the first month of 2021 — as long as you don’t mind booking it to Denver.
In a news release, the institute announced that since it isn’t advisable for the festival’s usual huge audience to jam together in Park City, Utah, it will be meeting audiences where they are in a number of ways. These include an online streaming platform that movie-watchers can access from pretty much anywhere and partnerships with community arthouse cinemas, drive-ins, and the like.
“Even under these impossible circumstances, artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can,” festival director Tabitha Jackson said in the release. “So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can.”
For Coloradans, this means that some of the films will screen at the SIE FilmCenter, the home of the Denver Film Society. There will also be screenings at The Loft Open Air Cinema in Tuscon, Arizona, and The Ray theater in Park City (just east of Salt Lake City). Sorry, New Mexicans — Sundance has apparently deemed you unworthy of watching its movies.
The festival has yet to announce what films it will feature, any of the exact details of when, where and how they will screen, or how much it will cost. But the seven-day festival runs from Jan. 28 through Feb. 23, so that information should be available in the not too distant future.
There is a pretty high probability of something good showing during the festival. Films that have previously been showcased by Sundance include “Get Out,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Blair Witch Project,” and “The Usual Suspects.” Then again, the festival also inflicted “Napoleon Dynamite” upon the world, so maybe not.