Sundance Film Festival to go virtual due to Omicron surge
The rise in COVID-19 cases, fuelled by the Omicron variant, had the film festival do away with the in-person event.
The in-person return of the Sundance Film Festival has been cancelled due to a surge in COVID-19 cases spurred by the Omicron variant, with the festival going completely virtual.
As per Variety, the festival was scheduled to take place from January 20-30, and offer a virtual component for those who could not attend in person.
However, due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, fuelled by the Omicron variant, the film festival had to do away with the in-person event. The organisers of the festival made the announcement on Wednesday.
"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," organisers said in a statement.
They added, "The festival's in-person Utah elements will be moving online this year. While we're disappointed to not provide the full hybrid experience and gather in-person as intended, audiences this year will still experience the magic and energy of our festival."
The Sundance Institute added how difficult the decision was to make given that "as a nonprofit, our Sundance spirit is in making something work against the odds. But with case numbers forecasted to peak in our host community the week of the festival we cannot knowingly put our staff and community at risk. The undue stress to Summit County's health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate."
New films, extended reality ("XR") programming, artists conversations and more content will all be accessible through virtual portals, they added.
Sundance had planned to institute COVID safety measures such as requiring booster shots as well as negative test results, plus banning food and drink at screenings.
Organisers were hopeful that Sundance could proceed in person, given that domestic movie theatres have not yet closed in the wake of the new variant -- and in fact, Sony's 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' continues to drive the public to the cineplex in record pandemic numbers.
Sundance, of course, is not just a series of spartan film screenings. Panel discussions, filmmaker dinners, late-night after-parties and hospitality lounges all draw creative and industry players over the 10-day event.
Other notable events recently affected due to the Omicron surge include the Grammy Awards, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the film academy's annual Governors Awards, and the planned broadcast of the Critics Choice Awards.
Sundance held a virtual edition in 2021 and offered select physical screenings in markets across the US.