Sundance Cancels SoCal Drive-In Screenings Due to COVID-19 Surge (EXCLUSIVE)

The Sundance Film Festival will not move forward with drive-in movie screenings in Southern California, due to the state’s alarming increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths, Variety has learned.

Los Angeles-area venues the Rose Bowl Stadium and the Mission Tiki Drive-in were meant to accommodate a large number show business types who are unable to travel to the festival’s Park City, Utah home this year — but given the staggering rate of infection in California, the festival has begun telling filmmakers it is not “safe or responsible” to move forward.

Sundance director Tabitha Jackson and programming head Kim Yutani reached out to numerous festival participants meant to hold screenings at those venues, multiple sources said. The pair said that due to the discovery of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus and a lack of ICU capacity in California, the showings were off.

Representatives for the Sundance Film Festival did not immediately return a request for comment. In their discussions with producers and filmmakers, Yutani and Jackson said they consulted with local health officials to reach the decision. On Monday, California reportedly recorded 39,194 new cases.

As America’s premiere independent film festival, Sundance had banked on lower transmission numbers and robust digital and in-person hybrid model to recreate the magic of the Utah gathering. In their notes to creatives, Jackson and Yutani expressed specific regrets that Los Angeles would not be able to share a big-screen experience. Festival films will be available on Sundance’s proprietary streaming platform for ticket holders.

Screenings are still expected in locations like Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre, Houston’s Moonstruck Drive-In, Denver’s Sie FilmCenter, and the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Films set to screen include feature directorial debuts from Rebecca Hall (“Passing”) and Robin Wright (“Land”), as well as the documentary “Summer of Soul” from Amir “Questlove” Thompson. Read the full lineup here.

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