The Park City, Utah festival was scheduled to kick off Jan. 20 with in-person screenings. However, “we do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services,” organizers said in a statement Wednesday.
“We have been looking forward to our first fully hybrid Sundance Film Festival and our teams have spent a year planning a festival like no other. But 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.”
The announcement came soon after Utah health officials announced that the state had a record-breaking 7,240 new Covid cases, including nearly 1,000 school-aged children, KUTV reported. “Unfortunately, we can expect numbers this high and possibly higher for the next few weeks as Omicron sweeps through our community,” Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health, said in a statement.
Organizers continued, “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 with bold new films and XR work, the discovery of new storytellers, direct encounters with artists, and an innovative globally accessible social platform and gallery space. Our partner community will also be adding a vibrant dimension to the festival with a rich mix of conversation, talent talks and events.”
The 2022 Sundance Film Festival announced its 2022 slate in December, with documentaries about Kanye West, Sinead O’Connor and the Middle East’s first female metal band among the films scheduled to premiere at the fest.