You don’t have to make travel plans to Park City, Utah to see this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Instead, the film festival is coming to Dallas. Actually, it’s coming to a lot of major U.S. cities.
The folks at the Sundance Institute realized that the festival could not operate this year as it had in the past. Yes, they are doing online film screenings, artists’ talks, and exhibitions you can catch on the Sundance Film Festival’s website. But they also sought out independent theaters that are still safely hosting in-person screenings to screen selections from the festival.
The historic Texas Theatre is the Dallas venue for Sundance’s Satellite Screening program. That means it is the only place in North Texas where you can see a selection of films from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in-person, in a very limited capacity, at the theater or at the drive-in behind it.
Texas Theatre will screen 13 of the festival’s 71 features and 50 shorts. The opening night and closing night films – two of those 13 – will be screened at Texas Theatre Sunset Drive-In.
Barak Epstein is the co-owner of the Texas Theatre.
“We kind of worked in conjunction with the Sundance programming team to find the films that would play best here in Dallas,” he said. “A lot of what we’re actually showing are several films that were made in Texas and have Dallas ties. So we’re excited about that.”
Three films have Texas ties: the documentary Cusp, and two features, Jockey, and The Blazing World.
Cusp chronicles one formative year of teenage life for three friends in a Texas town where there’s little to do but party — and where liquor, drugs, and guns are standard recreational accessories, according to the film production’s synopsis. Followed through lazy hangouts, fast-food outings, and bonfire parties, Autumn, Brittney, and Aaloni allow directors Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt to observe intimate moments within their homes and social circles.
Jockey, a film about horse racing jockeys, was directed by Dallas filmmakers, Epstein said. An aging jockey in failing health tries to survive his final season and win one last championship, but his dream is flipped upside down when a young jockey shows up claiming to be his son, according to the Sundance synopsis.
The Blazing World was made in and around Austin by Fort Worth filmmaker Carlson Young. The Sundance synopsis: Decades after the accidental drowning of her twin sister, a self-destructive young woman returns to her family home, finding herself drawn to an alternate dimension where her sister may still be alive.
“It’s a mix of all sorts of different kinds of films that were showing it ranges from documentaries, music films, the three films that were made in Texas,” said Epstein. “We’ve also got a great film by Ben Wheatley called In the Earth. It’s sort of a pandemic horror film, so it’s a mix of all sorts of good stuff happening, some indoor and some outdoor at the Texas Theatre.”
Some people might be unaware that the historic theater in Oak Cliff has converted their back parking lot behind the theater into a drive-in, called the Texas Theatre Sunset Drive-in.
“We’ve been doing it every weekend since July and it sells out almost every show,” said Epstein. “People were giving us great feedback on it. You know we’re doing kind of curbside concessions. People stay in their cars. They listen to the movie on the radio. It’s a safe night out. . . It’s kind of some people’s only date night that they’re doing these days.”
Texas Theatre has also been holding indoor screenings going beyond the CinemaSafe rules put out by the National Association of Theatre Owners. Most importantly for you, they’re are keeping capacity very small, at about 16-17% inside the theater. Outside the number of cars at the drive-in is set at about 35 cars. As a result, the highly anticipated Warner Brothers’ Judas and The Black Messiah, is already sold out.
Epstein said there are still tickets available for other films and recommends visiting their website and get your tickets early. “There’s still a lot of good opportunities to see some films.”
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