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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Sundance Film Festival successful in first-ever hybrid model

By Brittany Snow | Production Chief

Photo from Picasa

   Every year the Sundance Film Festival, an event in which independent artists can showcase their new feature films and media, is hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah. This year, however, the event was hosted both online and in select theaters from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 in response to COVID-19 concerns.

   The program received a total of 14,092 submissions. Of those, 73 feature-length and 50 short films were showcased online via the Festival’s custom-built online platform, as well as in 28 Satellite Screen locations across the United States.

   The online streaming opportunity resulted in a total audience 2.7 times larger than the usual 11-day Utah event. According to Sundance organizers, there was an average of two individuals per household view, amounting to 500 thousand people viewing the film program.

   This spike in viewership comes despite the screening of fewer films compared to the typical 120 features.

   “It’s been rewarding to see the way adventurous audiences everywhere engaged with our program and platform,” Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam said in a statement to IndieWire. “We are delighted to have met and even exceeded our goal of expanding the reach and community for independent film in this challenging year.”

   Festival director Tabitha Jackson added that Sundance will continue looking into the audience data for its first-ever hybrid event, but the early results indicate a hybrid virtual and in-theater Sundance may be a new normal. 

   “There is a lot still to learn but we are delighted that a combination of online and in-person participation, innovative social spaces, hard work, and a lot of crossed-fingers came together to expand and connect audiences for the incredible slate of work we were lucky enough to program this year,” Jackson said in her own statement on social media.

   According to Deadline, 64 percent of viewers chose to watch films in their three-hour premiere window, which included live interactive elements of chat and Q&As. Single tickets priced at $15 accounted for 85 percent of admissions with the rest being festival passes.

   Out of the Sundance successes, the Documentary Grand Jury Prize went to “Summer of Soul,” directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. This feature film has also been picked up by Searchlight Pictures and Hulu.

   The documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival features never-before-seen footage from the series of concerts that took place in the summer of 1969. The film includes performances from artists such as B.B. King, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder.

   “I’m so honored to be allowed to manifest my dreams after all this time,” the Roots drummer and music historian Thompson told Deadline after the deal was made public. “This is truly an honor. ‘Summer of Soul’ is a passion project and to have it resonate with so many people on so many levels has been incredibly rewarding.”

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Sundance Film Festival successful in first-ever hybrid model