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Sundance had its largest-ever audience this year. Here’s why

The Sundance Film Festival reported its biggest audience ever for a festival that went virtual for 2021

Spectators watch a 2021 Sundance Film Festival film at Admiral Twin Drive-In in Tulsa, Okla., on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.
Spectators watch a 2021 Sundance Film Festival film at Admiral Twin Drive-In in Tulsa, Okla., on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.
Associated Press

The Sundance Film Festival had its largest-ever audience for the 2021 virtual edition, the Sundance Institute said Monday.

What’s going on?

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival reported its biggest audience ever, according to a Sundance press release sent to the Deseret News.

  • The festival had 251,331 total views of feature and short films and indie series films. The festival said this equates to more than 500,000 views since each household would have at least two people in it.
  • Free talks and events had 33,267 total views. But with two people per household, the festival suggests there were more than 66,000 views.
  • The festival also estimates that 20,000 people attended Sundance film screenings at drive-ins and indoor theaters across the country, according to Deadline. The festival estimated 2.5 people per car saw films at drive-ins.
  • And the “New Frontier” exhibition — an immersive storytelling experience — had 39,869 visits.
  • The festival estimates between all screenings and events offered, there were more than 600,000 total views for the 2021 edition — 168% higher than 2020.


The high viewership numbers happened despite there being fewer films with 73 compared to the normal 120, according to Sundance.

  • But it’s important to note that there’s no guarantee two people in each household watched all screenings. For example, someone could have watched a movie alone. Or an entire family of four watched a movie.
  • According to The Hollywood Reporter, 85% of its content was sold through $15 single tickets. The rest were viewed through passes. And the festival allowed 1,800 industry leaders to attend with 1,272 media members — which is 5% higher than 2020.

Key quote

“It’s been rewarding to see the way adventurous audiences everywhere engaged with our program and platform, and of course we are delighted to have met and even exceeded our goal of expanding the reach and community for independent film in this challenging year,” said Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam in a statement emailed to the Deseret News. “I am so inspired by the incredible Sundance team who rose to the challenge of presenting the Festival in a new way, and grateful to our Board whose partnership and support was invaluable and — as always — to Robert Redford for being our guiding light.”