Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging in the United States, the legendary film festival, which is traditionally hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, has recently celebrated independent filmmaking and attracted more visitors than ever before, nearly 40,000.
Only this year, Sundance Film Festival’s audience didn’t gather in one physical location but in a virtual environment developed in collaboration with Active Theory, a creative digital production studio based in Venice, California.
The festival took place from Jan. 28th to Feb. 3rd, and it greeted viewers from all 50 states and 120 counties. Everyone who purchased the $25 Explorers Pass could enjoy the New Frontier program, which showcased 14 VR and new media projects from across the globe.
“I am so inspired by the incredible Sundance team who rose to the challenge of presenting the Festival in a new way,” said Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam. “It’s been rewarding to see the way adventurous audiences everywhere engaged with our program and platform, and of course we are delighted to have met and even exceeded our goal of expanding the reach and community for independent film in this challenging year.”
Attendees were also able to watch five features in a fully realized VR theater called the Cinema House and explore a virtual bar that provided ample opportunities to mingle with creators.
The physical Sundance Film Festival is planned to return after the pandemic is brought under control. Shari Frilot, Sundance’s New Frontier curator and senior programmer believes that virtual reality could become a permanent fixture at the festival. “I can’t imagine going backwards from this,” she said.