The annual Sundance Film Festival, which kicked off yesterday in Park City, Utah and runs through January 29, is as much about events — celebrity-studded parties, panels, performances and this year, a protest parade — as it is about movies.
You could easily spend a very busy week at the festival being inspired, informed and entertained, and never having sat down once in a cinema.
The festival boasts 23 official sponsors and there are at least as many non-officials ones. Corporate brands ranging from spirits and snack foods to cars, cameras and credit cards set up shop along Main Street, taking over restaurants, galleries and retail stores in the Old Town district.
The resident population swells from 10,000 (progressives who voted for Hillary Clinton in an otherwise pro-Trump Red state) to more than 50,000 as even more progressive Hollywood folk take over the ski town.
There’s fierce competition by the brands for the festival-goers’ attention with an array of activities featuring food, drink, swag and live music. (Did we mention celebrities?)
Should feel you guilty for not going to see a movie? Yes! After all, this is a singular showcase of world-class films. Besides, if you find yourself in a theater watching a star turn that turns out not be your cup of tea, you can take comfort in knowing that a complimentary cocktail is waiting for you on Main St.
Footnote: This year the most anticipated event may be the Women’s March on Main, an anti-Trump protest led by activist-actor-writer Chelsea Handler, planned for Old Town on Saturday, part of a nationwide movement protesting the inauguration of the next President.
Scheduled speakers joining Handler include Aisha Tyler, Connie Britton, Mary McCormack, Maria Bello Dolores Huerta, Benjamin Bratt, Laurie David, Jessica Williams, and progressive Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
All of that will be a hard act to follow but once the snow settles and the freezing temperature starts to kick in, seriously consider these 10 other places to hang during Sundance.
1 Festival Base Camp, 475 Swede Alley
Presented by Canada Goose, this event hub combines music performances, panels, art and film. The Main Stage tent will host nightly musical artists, while the daytime events will revolve around panel discussions, live streaming and performances.
This year’s centerpiece music programming will feature a wide range of artists celebrating free speech and diverse voices including Common, Jim James, Andra Day, Jenny Slate, Nick Offerman, Hunter Hayes, Ava DuVernay and Gael Garcia Bernal.
2 ASCAP Music Café, 751 Main Street
This is wall-to-wall music that’s free and open to all festival credential holders 21 and older. Scheduled live performances include Peter Bradley Adams, Michael Franti, Rooney, Clare Bowen (of CMT’s Nashville), Andy Shauf and Café alum Josh Kelley.
A special “Bluebird Café Series” lineup on January 25 and 26 will include award-winning songwriters JT Harding (Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban), Rivers Rutherford (Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton), and on-the-rise solo artist Brett Young.
Also on the schedule are Wilder Adkins, The Album Leaf, Zac Clark, Lee DeWyze, Fantastic Negrito, Brent Faiyaz, Jim and Sam, Niia, SadGirl, Wound), Ernst Reijseger (from the film Walking Out), and Marlon Williams.
3 Canon Creative Studio, 592 Main Street
Embrace your Inner Cinematographer at this space featuring panels and hands-on camera workshops.
Panels will include spotlights on cinematographer Jim Frohna for his television series I Love Dick, (the buzzy Amazon TV series screening in the festival’s Special Events section) and Academy Award nominee Matthew Heineman for his new documentary City of Ghosts that follows a group of citizen journalists who band together after their homeland is taken over by ISIS.
4 YouTube House, 449 Main St.
YouTube’s expanded presence at this year’s festival spotlights creative storytelling from fresh new voices. The programming is anchored by the world premiere of This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous — the first YouTube Red Original film to premiere at the festival as an official selection.
YouTube stars Gigi Gorgeous, Tyler Oakley, along with Publisher of VICE Impact Katherine Keating will appear on Saturday afternoon (beginning at 3pm) for a panel discussion about how they are using their storytelling skills and multimedia platforms to advocate and affect change.
5 New Frontier, 500 and 571 Main St.
At these two festival venues you’ll find the future of motion pictures, namely the latest in VR productions, including storyworlds in Augmented Reality headsets, projection-mapped acrobatics — even a VR beauty salon producing neuroscience data via the internet of things.
Live performances and 11 interactive installations complement the 20 VR experiences. Among them is Tree, which examines mankind’s assault on Mother Nature, taking the viewer in the entire lifecycle of a single tree from a buried seedling, to an ancient towering majesty, to its modern annihilation.
6 Chase Sapphire Lounge, 573 Main St.
Check out daily panels on behind-the-scenes industry tips and tales from actors, directors, and writers from theses featured festival films, all at 3pm: The Little Hours, Jan. 20; Ingrid Goes West, Jan. 21;Mudbound, Jan. 22; Golden Exits, Jan. 23 and Marjorie Prime, Jan. 24.
Complimentary signature dishes from different leading local restaurants will be served each day at lunchtime.
7 SPG Amex, 314 Main St. and St. Regis Deer Valley
Starwood Preferred Guest and American Express have a dual footprint at Sundance this year. During the day stop by their Main St. lounge, co-hosted by the L.A. Times, to grab complimentary hot beverages and catch up with the news.
As happy hour rolls along nibble on lobster rolls, black truffle chicken salad and other small bites by New York City’s NoMad Bar and washed down with beer and wine.
On Saturday night nab a ticket to the invitation-only soiree at the tony St. Regis hotel in Deer Valley for a late night celebration, complete with entertainment by celebrity magician Justin Willman.
8 Sundance TV HQ, 268 Main St.
SundanceTV, the official television partner of the Sundance Film Festival, will host a variety of events at its Main Street headquarters, including the festival’s kick-off party hosted by Robert Redford.
On Saturday at 1pm join actors Laura Dern, Jay Duplass, Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Lister-Jones for an in-depth conversation about their work and careers.
On Sunday it’s the directors’ turn with a panel populated by Danny Strong, Dee Rees, David Permut, Drake Doremus, Michael Showalter and Matthew Heineman
9 Rock N Reilly, 427 Main St.
Rock N Reilly — an Irish bar on steroids — celebrates its fifth year at Sundance with a full slate of events. During the day it will become Vulture.com’s impromptu studio, with in-person video interviews and photo shoots for Sundance talent.
Food, drink and swag will be provided by Mellow Mushroom Pizza, House of Shroom Head Shop, Notorious Pink Rosé, Omission Beer and VOCO Vodka Coconut Water.
Come nighttime and the venue becomes party central for the likes of New York magazine, Regal Cinemas, BMW and Conde Nast.
On Sunday evening Geena Davis and her Betonville (Female) Film Fest take charge of the space to champion women’s voices in media with celebrities Jill Soloway (Transparent) and Michaela Watkins (Casual, Brigsby Bear) attending.
10 AT&T’s Village At The Lift, 825 Main St.
One of the charms of Park City’s Old Town is a chair lift that deposits skiers right on to to Main Street. At the base is Village at the Lift, situated at the “bottom” of Main Street — a two lane road with a pronounced incline that seemingly gets steeper with every step.
It offers brief respite before catching one of the free shuttle buses to the film screenings spread across Park City.
This year’s AT&T is hosting the Village, offering four individual spaces within, including a showcase for the latest in DirectTV programming and WireImage’s photo studio (celebrity alert!).
Seasonal beverages and appetizers from notable Japanese restaurant Nobu will keep the wolves at the door while your devices enjoy free high-speed WiFi and charging stations.