Sundance Institute announces 2021 film festival attendance numbers

PARK CITY, Utah, Feb. 8, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The Sundance Institute has announced attendance information for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which took place both online and in-person in 20 cities across the country from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3.

“The seven-day festival reached a total audience 2.7 times larger than at the typical 11 day Utah edition, despite the shorter duration and with fewer feature films, 73, than the festival’s typical 120 features,” said a news release from the institute. “Audiences participated from all 50 states and 120 countries.”

Audiences watched the online program of 73 feature and 50 short films, four Indie Series, 23 talks and events, participated in the New Frontier exhibition including 14 projects, and showed up at the Satellite Screens across the country, the news release said. Online seat limits for feature films were set by individual rights-holders, and the film and series programs were geo-blocked to the U.S.

“There were 251,331 views of feature and short films and Indie Series through the online platform or TV apps,” the news release said. “With an estimated average of two individuals per household for each ‘view,’ this amounts to over 500,000 views of the film program. The official program of free talks and events had a total audience of approximately 66,000 based on 33,267 views with the same two per household multiplier.”

The New Frontier exhibition had 39,869 visits. Visitors to the space engaged with immersive storytelling in the Gallery and Cinema House or made use of the innovative social space with other festival attendees at “Film Party,” the news release said. This is a sharp increase from the live festival’s audience for the New Frontier program, which averages 2,000 visitors per festival.

Over 70% of the feature film program unspooled on 40 satellite screens run by 20 partner cinemas and organizations. Early data shows attendance of 20,000 at the drive-ins and socially-distanced indoor or outdoor seated screenings; drive-ins approximated 2.5 attendees per one car ticket.

This results in a total of audience views of more than 600,000 — 2.7 times or 168% more than in 2020.


  • 48% of the participants were between the ages of 18-34
  • Engaged participants came from more than 120 countries and territories around the world and all 50 states, as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • 64% of viewers selected to watch films in their 3-hour premiere window, which included live interactive elements of chat and Q&As, affirming that the rollout approach of capturing the energy and focus of a festival with short premieres resonated with fans.
    85% of the total products sold were $15 single tickets with the rest passes.
  • The festival met its goal of providing discounts to at least 20% of anticipated festival goers in order to increase access for historically marginalized communities and younger audiences. Discounts were provided to artist-support nonprofits serving or led by Black, Indigenous and people of color, women, LGBTQ+, and/or people with disabilities. The festival adapted its longstanding Ignite Ticket Package to the current festival model by disbursing 1,000 discounted passes to young adults 18-25 years old through the Ignite Program.

“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. “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.”

Festival Director Tabitha Jackson added: “We talked about this year’s festival as a grand experiment, and now we are in the process of analysing the results — a vital part of informing the expression of festival in 2022. There is a lot still to learn, but we are delighted that a combination of online and in-person participation, innovative social spaces, hard work, and a lot of crossed fingers came together to expand and connect audiences for the incredible slate of work we were lucky enough to program this year.”


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