Sundance 2021 recreates in-person magic online

The Sundance Film Festival built out a digital metaverse.

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Sundance 2021 recreates in-person magic online


Future. The Sundance Film Festival didn’t settle for simple virtual screenings during these pandemic times, but instead built out a digital metaverse that can be explored by festival-goers’ avatars in a bid to capture the feeling of festivals past. So far, it seems to be working, which could embolden Sundance and other top fests to keep these innovations around from now on… potentially giving under-the-radar indie films a bigger reach without forcing them to fight the buzzier titles for prime time slots.

Meta Main Street
For most audiences, the 37th edition of the Sundance Film Festival underwent a venue change: Festival.Sundance.Org.

  • Similar to ComplexLand, Sundance created a virtual hub for the festival that digital avatars can navigate.
  • The platform houses a Festival Village where artists can meet, audiences can attend screenings, and attendees can tune in to live Q&As.
  • There’s also a space called “film party” where users’ avatars can gather and talk about films they just saw.
  • It also contains a virtual rendition of Main Street — the main artery of activity at the festival’s typical physical location, Park City, Utah.
  • The festival’s sponsors each have a virtual activation on the digital Main Street.

The festival is currently running now until February 3.

Platform sequel
Although seemingly every film and music festival is trying to make the virtual switch (with mixed results), Sundance’s metaverse approach is already racking up some rave reviews. Alex Billington, Editor in Chief of First Showing and Sundance veteran, said that the new platform “worked great” for the fest’s first screening and that it “feel[s] like a real premiere.”

That “real” feeling is the holy grail of virtual events — finding a way to capture the energy and spontaneity of a physical gathering in the digital world. That will certainly be a sign of encouragement for Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam who hasn’t closed the book on potentially having a “hybrid [festival] that offers access for people that can’t get to Park City” in the future.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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