The Sundance Film Festival 2022 was set to take place in-person. This programme has now been scrapped, thanks to Omicron concerns, and will move to an entirely virtual event.

A major annual event in the film industry, plans for the 2022 Sundance Film Festival were looking good to take place in-person. Set to take place between the 20th and 30th of January in Park City, Utah, a virtual component was already on offer for those unable to physically attend.

Now, due to the unexpectedly dramatic transmissibility of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, organisers fear for the safety and health of attendees. In a statement, Sundance officials said:

“Despite the most ambitious protocols, the Omicron variant with its unexpectedly high transmissibility rates is pushing the limits of health safety across the country. We have made the difficult decision to move all in-person Utah elements online this year. Audiences will still experience the magic and energy of our Festival with bold new films, XR work, panels and an innovative globally accessible social platform.”

The protocols and measures referred to were to include booster vaccines, proof of negative COVID test results, and the banning of food and drink at screenings.

Last year’s Sundance Film Festival was also affected by the pandemic, and was hosted fully online.

The Sundance Institute has explained that this move was a difficult decision, but ultimately the concern for undue stress caused to Summit County’s health services won out. Instead, film, extended reality (XR) programming, artist conversations and much more will be made available via online portals.

With cinemas and movie theatres remaining open, there have been questions around the necessity of a virtual film festival. However, the 10-day event that is The Sundance Film Festival includes panel discussions, after parties, industry dinners, and a rise in hospitality-based activity.

Sundance is not alone in reacting to Omicron concerns. The Grammys 2022 has been postponed indefinitely, amid fears relating to the health implications of an in-person ceremony.