Sundance festival unveils screenings across US and online due to coronavirus

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The Sundance film festival unveiled plans on Wednesday (Dec 2) to screen premieres at drive-ins and arthouse theatres across the United States and online, as the movie industry continues to adapt to the crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Co-founded by actor-director Robert Redford some four decades ago and known for introducing indie classics from Quentin Tarantino's debut Reservoir Dogs to the Oscar-winning Whiplash, Sundance typically takes place each January and February in the mountains of western state of Utah.

But with theatres closed across much of the nation and a deadly third wave of the disease showing little sign of abating, festivals have become just one key element of the film industry upended by the crisis.

Utah has suffered over 200,000 infections including 900 deaths, with Governor Gary Herbert declaring a state of emergency last month as new daily cases hit record levels.

"Even under these impossible circumstances, artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can," said festival director Tabitha Jackson.

Online screenings and socially-distanced premieres at venues from California to New York "gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are," she added.

A theatre in the festival's traditional Park City, Utah home, along with two drive-ins in the Los Angeles area, are scheduled to host physical events featuring artists, while online premieres will be followed by live virtual Q&As.

This year, major summer and fall festivals - with the exception of Venice - scrapped most of their physical events, or in the case of Cannes and Telluride were cancelled entirely.

Toronto - North America's largest movie gathering - took place largely online.

The shortened Sundance festival will run from Jan 28 through Feb 3.

Its lineup of 70-plus movies is yet to be announced, but may include films eligible for next year's delayed Oscars which are set to take place on April 25.

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