Film-Sundance Film Festival

The Egyptian Theatre promotes the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film fest announced Monday that it is expanding beyond the mountains.

NEW YORK (AP) — The Sundance Film Festival, held annually at altitude in the snowy reaches of a Utah ski town, is expanding beyond the mountains.

Sundance, the premier independent film festival, isn’t giving up its home in Park City. But on Monday, organizers said selections from next year’s edition will also play in at least 20 other cities, radically enlarging Sundance’s scope and connecting it more deeply with local communities.

A “bespoke slate” of movies from Sundance’s selection will screen concurrently in indie and community cinemas throughout the U.S. and internationally. Sundance organizers said they are in discussions with theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, Detroit, Mexico City and many more.

The plan is one of several Sundance is pursuing as it prepares for a very different festival due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sundance, where festivalgoers crowd into shuttle buses, bars and local cinemas at the height of winter (and flu season), is reimagining what it can be should social distancing protocols still be in effect come January 2021.

Like other festivals, Sundance aims to straddle both the physical and virtual worlds. Along with the nationwide expansion, it is also readying a more robust digital hub. Last week, the Toronto International Film Festival put forward plans for a scaled-down event in September. Other festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival in May, April’s Tribeca Film Festival and SXSW in March, were forced to cancel because of COVID-19, though each preserved some components online.

Tabitha Jackson, Sundance’s new festival director, said the circumstances of the pandemic give the festival an opportunity to further its reach and improve accessibility. That, she said, is especially important for a festival predicated on launching new voices in cinema and expanding inclusion.

“We are reminded daily of the power of what is made newly visible to us, the importance of what we look at,” Jackson wrote in memo to staff. “My hope for this edition of the Sundance Film Festival is that through a multiplicity of perspectives held by artists and audiences in their various communities we will also come to feel the power of where we look from.”

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