With an opening weekend loaded with celebrities, Utah’s Sundance fest moves toward second half

Jan 22, 2024, 2:01 PM | Updated: 5:28 pm

Pedro Pascal at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. (Sundance Institute)...

Pedro Pascal at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. (Sundance Institute)

(Sundance Institute)

SALT LAKE CITY — The first weekend of the Sundance Film Festival traditionally brings the stars, cameras and plenty of international media attention.

What remains on Monday is a festival that continues to screen films in Park City and Salt Lake City through the weekend and tends to take on a bit more local feeling, with awards, sales and headlines still to come.

One thing that’s clear is “Freaky Tales,” a feature film with a supernatural flavor set in 1980s Oakland with four interconnected tales, is a red-hot ticket. After it premiered, a Saturday night screening in Salt Lake City was overwhelmed by pass holders showing up to watch, leaving scores — maybe hundreds — of ticket holders unable to get in the screening.

It features the Pedro Pascal — whom director co-Ryan Fleck told KSL TV is “having a moment” — and features a lot of other notable faces including Jay Ellis and Ben Mendelsohn, as well as a big-time cameo of a video-store worker named Hank. Buzz at Sundance never hurts, neither does Fleck and co-director Anna Boden showing up in Salt Lake to talk to audiences. It also has a Karl “The Mailman” Malone mention with a focus on Golden State Warriors players of the era.

There were reports of other films that attracted pass holders, leaving other ticket holders frustrated. The fest provides additional viewing opportunities for ticket holders who miss a screening, although perhaps not the same film, which can screen only a handful of times.

The fest’s opening weekend brought a host of familiar faces to Utah while also celebrating a pretty incredible list of past attendees who have gone on to theatrical success, both critical and commercial. It also brings panels, discussions and for those who can get it, big-time nightlife.

Salt Lake City held an opening night event too and premiere of documentary “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” that featured the late actor’s three children who are featured in the film. They also provided much of the home-video photos and video for directors Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui to craft the definitive story of the actor and father who in many ways ushered in the superhero-era of modern cinema.

Matthew Reeve, Alexandra Reeve and William Reeve attended, along with city dignitaries, including former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and local business leaders.

But Park City hosted the most recognizable starts including “Oppenheimer” director Christopher Nolan, who broke out at Sundance with his film “Memento” in 2004. There were two films for Kristen Stewart who was present to support both, including a hard-to-get ticket for “Love Me” that she stars in with Steven Yeun, also in Utah. That film is also generating considerable buzz.

The list of attending stars is impressive with the likes of Jodie Foster, Robert Downey Jr., Kerry Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan, Alicia Silverstone, Saoirse Ronan, Kathryn Newton, Zach Galifianakis, Riley Keough, Lucy Liu, Kieran Culkin, Lionel Richie, Chrissy Teigen, the WNBA legend Sue Bird, NBA vet Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, Giancarlo Esposito, Glen Powell, Chris Sullivan, Greg Clark, Jena Malone, Justice Smith and David Alan Grier to name just some of the actors in town.

The fest screens films in Park City and Salt Lake this week with showings of the award-winning films on Saturday and Sunday. Press, industry and talent remain in Utah, though star power may be reduced. The market for films is expected to be healthy with vacancies in the film release calendar, both in theaters and streaming, resulting from the strikes in Hollywood stopped film production last year.

Tickets are still available for individual screenings and online ticketed screenings are available Jan. 25 – 28.

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With an opening weekend loaded with celebrities, Utah’s Sundance fest moves toward second half