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Sundance 2016

From past years' hits to this year's tips, a primer for what to expect from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

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Sundance Survival
Tips and Tricks for Making the Most of your Festival Experience.

Even Utahns who have lived here their entire lives might think of the Sundance Film Festival as a different world—perhaps even one that's too intimidating to take on. But whether you're considering a trip to take in the Park City atmosphere, or just seeing a film or two in Salt Lake City, there are ways to make the experience easy. Well, easier, anyway.

If you can avoid it, don't drive anywhere. Plenty of factors conspire to make it unpleasant to try to navigate the festival as an individual driver—and believe it or not, the winter weather is often the least of them. Parking in Park City is at a premium—official lots are located behind the Egyptian Theatre, The Yard on Homestake Road and Lot G on Prospector Avenue—and they're simultaneously quick to fill up and expensive. If you must park within the city limits to get to a shuttle stop, leave your vehicle where it is as long as possible to avoid multiple pay-outs. Park City police also aren't shy about catching every speeder on Park Avenue where the speed limit dips to 35, and ticketing every inappropriately parked vehicle.

For Salt Lake City venues, take Trax and walk a couple of blocks if your primary venues will be the Rose Wagner, Library or Broadway Centre Cinemas. For the Tower Theatre, you'll likely need to find street parking in the nearby neighborhoods, so give yourself some time.

Get up early, stay up late, sleep at noon. "Sold out" shows are largely "sold out" due to seats reserved for festival pass-holders, many of whom spend their nights at various parties and their mornings sleeping it off. Historically, that has meant more wait-list seats are available for the public in every venue for the first and last shows of any given day. Sundance took advantage of this phenomenon a few years ago by creating its Adrenaline Pass, and industrious wait-listers can similarly strike paydirt if they're willing to brave lines in the wee hours. Early risers can also take advantage of tickets released to the public each morning at the festival's main box offices (136 Heber Ave. in Park City, and Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City) for screenings the same day.

Trust the "buzz" only so far. Virtually none of the festival films have been seen by press, and those that have are under embargo restrictions. For the first two days, nobody really knows anything about most of the movies, and whatever deafening "you gotta see this" bustle you'll hear likely comes from particularly shrewd publicists or from the presence of one or two familiar actors. But by the end of the first weekend, start asking people on a shuttle bus—or keeping an eye on CityWeekly.net for our daily reviews.

Know how long you really need between screenings. The film guide might tell you that your 2:30 p.m. MARC screening is 105 minutes long, and you want to make it to one at 5:30 p.m. at the Library. No problem, right? Except you need to factor in the possibility that your 2:30 screening might not start until closer to 2:40 as wait-list ticket holders are seated and filmmakers are introduced. And that you might not be able to squeeze onto the first available shuttle as everyone pours out at the same time. And that shuttles and all other drivers get notoriously backed-up in traffic between 4-6 p.m. as commuters and ski day-trippers make their way out of town. In short: The shuttle time indicator in the film guide is a helpful tool, but best-case schedule scenarios are much less likely to work out during the afternoons, particularly during opening weekend.

Similarly, don't assume you can dart from the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center to the Grand Theatre in the 30 minutes you have between the scheduled end of one movie and the beginning of the next, if you take into account weather, time to find parking and other variables.

Brown-bag it. Whatever you budgeted for meals, it will vanish if you try to eat out for every one. And even if you want to eat out for every meal, sometimes you'll have a long wait ahead of you at the places most convenient to the venues. Theaters sell pricey concession items, but consider swinging by a grocery store (the Fresh Market near the Yarrow Hotel and Holiday Theaters in Park City, or the Smith's near the Tower Theatre), grabbing some fresh fruit and a bagel, and saving $20 for another wait-list ticket.

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