It's coming: those 10 days in January when Park City's 10,000 residents brace for the onslaught of more than 45,000 filmlovers, corporate sponsors, and celebrity watchers. And while, year to year, most of what makes up the Sundance Film Festival remains gratefully the same--fantastic movies, thought-provoking panel discussions, and great live music--each year's event is also accompanied by something new, cool, and unexpected. Sundance 2017 promises to be no exception. Following are five highlights that will unfold in Park City beginning January 19.
1. The New Climate
Though themes have loosely emerged during past Sundance Film Festivals, 2017 marks the first time programmers have chosen to highlight a specific cause. The new program, appropriately dubbed The New Climate, features 14 films and virtual reality experiences about the the state of and protecting the environment—including the much-anticipated Day One film An Inconvenient Sequel, Al Gore's follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth.
Want to be part of the conversation but don't have a credential? No problem. On Sunday, January 22 at 2:30 p.m. MST, the Sundance Institute will live stream a discussion between Former vice president Al Gore, global entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeff Skoll, scientist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki, former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, filmmaker Heather Rae, and moderator Amy Goodman. The group plans to explore how visual storytellers can create new narratives that change the conversation, the culture, and possibly the world by elevating understanding and urgency among policy makers and the public alike.
2. The Return of Winter
Speaking of the environment, while sunshine and warm skies dominated weather patterns during the last several Sundance Film Festivals, not so this year. Since the first of the year, more than 100 inches of snow has fallen on Park City; the weather forecast for the festival's opening weekend is calling for more of the same. In other words LA friends take heed: you're gonna need a coat, boots, gloves, and a hat.
3. FREE Parking and Bus Service
If you've ever tried to get around Park City during Sundance then you know how, um, challenging it can be. Word to the wise: park at the new FREE park and ride lot at Richardson Flat near Quinn's Junction. Express buses will run between there and the Eccles Center (where you can access the city's full transit system.) from January 20 - 23 every 10 minutes, 7 a.m. until midnight and every 20 minutes, midnight until 3 a.m. (January 19 and January 24 - 29, this lot will be available for carpool parking only with no transit service.)
TIP: While the lots at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain are reserved for skiers during the day, Sundance attendees are allowed to park in resort lots for free from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. for the duration of the festival.
4. The Waldorf Astoria's Firestorm Lounge
The Waldorf Astoria's Ice Bar was the place to see and be seen during the last several years of the Sundance Film Festival. Well, this year the Waldorf is taking its signature festival-period apres experience concept on a 180 degree turn with the Firestorm Lounge. Set against the backdrop of the hotel's stunning outdoor pool and patio, there Sundancers can a tasty Patron cocktail while warming yourself by one of the dozens of fire pits and sculptures set up for this unique event. And if you've ever dreamt of getting up close to a Lamborghini, you can do that at the Firestorm Lounge, too: two of these Italian sports cars will be parked at the hotel's entry, greeting guests as they arrive. The Firestorm Lounge is open evenings, January 19 - 24.
5. Women's March on Main
Thousands are expected to take to Park City's Historic Main Street on Saturday, January 21 for the Women's #MarchonMain, a sister march to the rally taking place in Washington DC the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. (Utah went to Trump, but Hillary Clinton won Park City's county, Summit.) The march was organized by a group of agents, publicists, managers and local organizers and will be led by comedian, former talk show host, and famous topless Instagrammer, Chelsea Handler. The march will kick off at 9 a.m. at the top (south end) of Main Street at the parking lot outside Wasatch Brew Pub (220 Main St). Marchers will then move down Main, turn east on Heber Avenue, and end at with a rally at the flagpole lot near the bottom of Swede Alley featuring speeches by Handler, Aisha Tyler, Connie Britton, Mary McCormack, Dolores Huerta, Peter Bratt, Benjamin Bratt, Laurie David, Jessica Williams, Maria Bello, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Park Record columnist Teri Orr, Park City Youth Mayor Maya Levine, and Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Sue Obeidi. (Have no fear: If you have to miss this one, another women's march is planned for Salt Lake City on January 23 where, beginning at 2 p.m., women will march from City Creek Park to the Utah State Capitol.)