Sundance Film Festival

Tips for Sundance virgins

Sundance time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that film buffs call
Their favorite time of the year

It’s a new year and, here at QSaltLake, that means time to get ready for the Sundance Film Festival.

The issue of QSaltLake you are holding in your hand may feel a bit light, unless you picked it up as part of the double-issue right before Christmas. Yes, we were slackers and took the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off, so we published alongside our year-end issue. We’ll be back with a full issue the day Sundance opens.

To some, Sundance is a time to endure the crowds, parking and traffic. To others, it’s the time when the world pays a visit to us and time to go star-gazing.

Those of you who are ardent Sundance fans already have your festival passes, have chosen what films you will see and know where you will park when you get there. The rest of you may be wondering how you can best find the celebrities or how you can see a film or two.

I started going to Sundance when I worked it in the early ’80s when it was the United States Film and Video Festival in Park City. I was the go-fer who did every odd job there was, from getting food for the projectionists to holding a can of air to blow hair off the 16mm film.

Since we started this paper, I’ve gone every year to cover the festival. I also helped the first Queer Lounge happen in 2004.

So, for the Sundance virgins, I offer these pearls of wisdom:

Seeing a Film

There are several ways to go see those few films you are willing to take a risk on. And, yes, many of the films you’ll see are a risk. It is, after all, a festival for independent filmmakers, largely meaning less budget, fresh talent (or not) and less formulaic screenwriting. Sometimes, just sometimes, less means more.

Open Tickets

Didn’t register in time to get a ticket-buying time slot? You can still get tickets to many films online or at the box office after the advance ticketing process is over between Jan. 17 and 27. Frankly though, you’d better get on the site on the 17th in order to pre-purchase tickets for any film. They sell out fast.

Day-of-Show Tickets

Each morning at 8, the box offices in Park City at 136 Heber Ave. (just north of the main bus station near Park City’s Main Street) and Trolley Square in Salt Lake City release a limited number of tickets for that day’s screenings and the first screening of the next day. These tickets are not available by phone or online and must be purchased in person.

Wait List

The wait list is obviously a hit-and-miss adventure, but is often the easiest way to see a film if you haven’t done the plan-in-advance thing. To get on the wait list, go to the theater for the screening you want to attend two hours before the scheduled screening time, or one hour before if it’s the first screening of the day. You’ll be assigned a wait list number. Once you have your number, you can leave, but you must return at least 30 minutes before screening time. You’ll then line up according to number, and tickets will be sold in order based on availability. The tickets are $15, cash only.

Award Screenings

Want to see the best of Sundance? Pre-purchase tickets to one or more of the awards screenings that are shown at the end of the festival. You won’t know what film you’re going to see until you get there, but you will know that it’s one the judges considered the best in its category.

Park(ing hell) City

If you are going to head to Park City to watch for celebrity sightings or to see a film (or both), know that the area is packed to the gills with others doing the same thing. Get to the city well in advance of your screening. You will be parking in reserved lots well away from the theaters and taking the free shuttles to get around. Avoid the parking lots near Main Street. They are full and most have a $20 fee to park. Your best bets are the Yard on Kearns Boulevard just east of the Holiday Cinemas and the lots along Prospector Avenue. There is a fee for those as well and generally fill up by 11 a.m. We’ve had fairly good luck finding street parking on Prospector Avenue, but not always.

Once you arrive in Park City, try to pick up a printed festival guide. It contains information on getting around town by bus.

Hospitality Lounges

There are several hospitality spaces run by companies each year up and down Main Street. Most give away free food and drinks. Some require Sundance credentials, but most don’t.

Queer Lounge

At press time, only whispers of a possible Queer Lounge were available. It is highly unlikely that the lounge will happen this year. Sad, but it was a great run while it lasted.

CineGLAAD and GLAAD Film Panels

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 8–11 p.m., at the Sky Lodge, 201 Heber Ave. (the corner of Heber and Main Street), GLAAD will partner with the Sundance Institute to host an intimate cocktail reception supporting LGBT filmmakers and allies. “Cocktails with cineGLAAD” attendees will receive a year membership to GLAAD, hosted cocktails, courtesy of Bud Light and ROKK vodka and opportunities to meet writers, directors and producers from all over the country.
For information on the panels, check


Those who feel Sundance may be a bit out of their comfort zone may want to try out SlamDance. Tickets are more readily available and last year were only $8 ($5 for students). Screenings take place at the Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St.


Watch our Twitter feed @QSaltLake and our updates on to find what we feel are the must-sees of Sundance, from films to hot spots to musical performances.

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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