The show must go on even in a pandemic. And Austin’s only non-profit art house theater was tapped to keep the roles rolling for one of the world’s most famous film festivals.
The Sundance Film Festival has selected the Austin Film Society as its “Satellite Screens” partner for the 2021 event. The AFS Cinema is now located in Linc, one of only a few dozen places across the country where film lovers can personally select a selection from the 2021 Festival.
The seven-day festival will take place from January 28th to February 3rd, 2021. The program details will be published in the coming weeks. The name of the satellite screen means AFS Cinema Sundances can show feature films for the festival as well as bespoke local programming. And given AFS ‘deep local film connections, it wouldn’t be surprising if some Texan film personalities appeared.
“This partnership with the Sundance Film Festival is a wonderful opportunity for AFS to support and advance our mission of filmmaking and film culture here in Texas,” said Rebecca Campbell, CEO of AFS. “With so many aspiring Texan filmmakers making homes at the Sundance Film Festival over the years, it’s exciting to have our film community have the opportunity to host the festival in 2021. We are planning safe, socially distant screenings of the Sundance Film Festival selection, more details will be announced in the coming weeks. “
In addition to partnering with its satellite screens, Sundance provides a digital platform for audiences to watch the festival’s films, artist events, and Q&A from their homes.
The partnership came about thanks to a history of collaboration between the festival and the local film company. AFS, which has a longstanding relationship with the Sundance Film Festival and shares its mission to support emerging artists, has recommended AFS-sponsored filmmakers for Sundance laboratory programs over the past several years, providing travel grants to Texas-based artists who exhibit work at the festival, and hosted Sundances travel programs at AFS Cinema.
“The Sundance Film Festival contacted us when they thought about this new format, and we were intrigued and of course excited about the possibility of more intensive collaboration at the festival itself,” says Holly Herrick, AFS Director of Film and Creative Media.
AFS Cinema closed earlier this year due to COVID-19 but launched its AFS screening service to allow viewers to stream the theater’s film lineup at home. The Sundance screenings are the cinema’s first in-person events since the theater closed due to the pandemic. The theater’s opening after many months of closure is difficult to follow, but Herrick says AFS plans to introduce new security measures for festival screenings.
“We plan to show the films in the AFS cinema indoors. We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Austin and stand ready to make changes to our plan if Austin remains at Level 4 risk in January, ”she says. The cinema’s full security plan will go on sale before tickets are posted on the AFS website. “In addition to government security mandates, including significantly reduced capacity in theaters, AFS will implement increased security policies for these events. Some of these plans include removing lobby concessions during the festival, not eating or drinking in the theater so masks can be worn indoors at all times, keeping parties at least 3 meters apart, and thorough cleaning and disinfection afterwards leaving the audience the theater. “
Although face-to-face screenings have their challenges, the partnership is a win-win for both companies. Sundance can show its films and programs to a larger audience than would be possible in the usual Utah setting in person, and AFS Cinema puts people back in the right place.
“The core of our festival in the form of an online platform and socially distant cinema experiences reacts to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to safely reach a new audience where they are,” says Tabitha Jackson, festival director in the first year for sun dance. “And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities in the USA, we are not organizing our festival alone. At the heart of all of this is the belief in the power of coming together and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique: a collaborative spirit, a collective energy and a festival of art, artists and ideas that have changed us. ”
Other Texas satellite screen partners for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival include Dallas’ Aviation Cinemas, which will show screenings at the Texas Theater, and the Houston Cinema Arts Society, which will show screenings at the Moonstruck Drive-In and DeLuxe Theater in Houston.
Tickets and passes for a day, a performance and an entire festival will be available from January 7th.