Tips for First timers to the Sundance Film Festival
Movies and Tickets
If you have been to Sundance before, you will have an idea of how many movies you can see, and you can buy a bundle of tickets ahead of time. During our first trip to Sundance, we didn’t know what was possible. Our Charity package came with some tickets, so we created a spreadsheet of what we had and added in other movies we wanted to see around the movies we had. My advice: as soon as the movies come out, make a plan for what you want to see.
How to Schedule Your Movies
Give yourself time to get to the theatre and factor in the runtime of each move (the runtimes are on your Sundance App). Factor in the Q&A time and the time to get to your next theatre.
We found ourselves not being able to eat lunch most days because we didn’t have time. That’s where the snacks came in. Some theatres like the Yarrow and Redstone Cinemas are on the outskirts of Park City, which means it takes longer to get to them.
If a movie has a Q&A afterwards, it will usually last around 15 or 20 minutes. You might not know if there will be one until after the movie, but either way, you’ll want to take that into consideration when you are plotting out your movie schedule.
Where to Stay
Since there were two of us, we decided to stay in the middle of the action, which meant we were in a more expensive hotel. It was nice to have the shuttle pick-up right outside our door, but you pay for that luxury. We booked our rooms in March and they were still $500+ a night. We talked to several folks who got condos close by to the Yarrow Theatre and they really liked them. You will need to be careful though because one person told us their condo was really rundown. Do your homework and read up on the various places around Park City. You really do want to make sure you are on a shuttle run because driving a car in Park City is not a great option.
What to Pack
- Take clothes that can be layered.
- Pack a warm coat, gloves and a warm hat (Though I didn’t need my gloves I was very glad I had my fuzzy, warm hat).
- Carry sunglasses – when the sun is out, it’s bright.
- Take a backpack instead of a purse – it carries more and you can pack snacks and a drink in it. *Warning there are a few theatres that won’t let you carry food in so the backpack really comes in handy.*
- You’ll also want to carry a small bottle of sanitizer for your hands and some napkins too.
- Wear warm, comfortable boots because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
Downtown Park City
Get a map of Park City and take time to walk up and down to check out where things are. Sundance prints up a Sundance Film Festival Transit Map that tells you where all of the theatres are and gives you info about downtown Park City. Downtown has lots of shops, great sponsor venues with free food and drink and great restaurants. Lots of walking up and down hills, so be prepared – especially if you are not used to the high altitude.
High Altitude Sickness and "Bugs"
Park City is at a high altitude, so be prepared if you’re not use to high altitudes. You will feel it going up hills and stairs. I took a low dose aspirin every day and never had a problem with altitude sickness. Also, there are LOTS of folks who attend Sundance and some of them come with colds and viruses. Take whatever precautions you need to keep yourself healthy. I took vitamins and still managed to pick up a throat virus on my fifth day at Sundance.
Transportation to the Theatres
Find out where the Sundance shuttle buses are in relation to where you are staying. These shuttles are free but they are usually pretty packed and they make a lot of stops. I also recommend downloading the Uber app. We used the Uber cars when we were crunched for time and it was a lifesaver in getting us to our next movie. There were also lots of taxis around but they were much more expensive.
The Sundance App and the Sundance Waitlist
The Sundance App is a great tool for finding out about venues and movie schedules. I used it a lot– especially the Waitlist feature. My tips about the Waitlist are below. You’ll also want to make sure you have the Sundance website address with you too in case you are not able to get your app to work right. We had to go to the website several times in order to get our Waitlist number.
About the Waitlist
- It only opens up about an hour or so before the movie starts, so be ready.
- If you have friends you want to get tickets with, make sure they are signed up and linked to you beforehand.
- Even when assigned a number, you will need to be in the waitlist line no later than 30 minutes before the movie starts or you won’t get in.
- If you can’t get a number ahead of time, you can go really early and get in line but it is better to get a number if you can.
- Even with vouchers you are not guaranteed to get in, and sights require that you turn your voucher into a ticket before you enter the theatre.
- Also, they only take cash at Sundance so make sure you carry enough money to purchase your tickets.
Your Phone While at Park City
The one thing I noticed was the battery on my phone did not last very long and I was constantly looking around for someplace to charge it. I strongly recommend you take your charger with you at all times. In fact, Verizon sold me a special portable charging device that I used a lot to recharge my phone. It was very helpful, but you have to remember to charge it every night.
General Information About Waiting to Get In to See Movies
One thing about Sundance is that you will always be standing in line – even if you have tickets. If it’s a premier movie you’ll want to get there at least an hour or more before the movie starts just to get a good place in line, especially if you want to be closer to the stage for the Q&A.
Food at the Theatres
There is usually some kind of food nearby, but we found the drinks (3.50/each) and popcorn (5/each) to be expensive. This is why I would pack snacks as much as I could. Some venues had chili and hotdogs while others had only the usual movie theatre food.