The Sundance Film Festival has announced that it is moving forward with a virtual edition instead of the previously planned hybrid format due to the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.
In a joint statement posted on the festival’s website, Joana Vicente, CEO, Sundance Institute, and Tabitha Jackson, Festival Director, said there was no option but to go digital given the rise in the cases.
“We have been looking forward to our first fully hybrid Sundance Film Festival and our teams have spent a year planning a festival like no other. But despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health safety, travel and other infrastructures across the country.
“And so, today we’re announcing: the Festival’s in-person Utah elements will be moving online this year,” the statement read.
The organisers, however, assured that audiences will still “experience the magic and energy” of the gala with bold new films and discover new storytellers as well as connect with artists in the virtual format.
“While it is a deep loss to not have the in-person experience in Utah, we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services,” the statement further read.
The team said going virtual was “a difficult decision to make” but expressed hope that the 11-day-long festival, beginning January 20, will take place as per schedule. The festival is presented by Sundance Organisation, a nonprofit that discovers and supports independent artists, and introduces audiences to their work.