Sundance Film Festival expected to draw 46,000 people over next 10 days

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PARK CITY, Utah - The Sundance Film Festival officially began Thursday in Park City.

Festival founder Robert Redford gave opening remarks at the opening day press conference. He said he’s most looking forward to the audience reaction to the 195 films picked for this year’s line up.

Festival directors expect more than 46,000 people to attend the 10-day festival. Redford said the international audience is an unexpected byproduct of the festival, which started out as an outlet for budding filmmakers.

“More and more people came, I realized that audiences were coming up here, of all places, I mean, Utah,” Redford said. “Coming up here to see stuff they couldn’t see in the market place. That’s when I realized that we were really just creating an opportunity to have more viewership.”

Still, festival director John Cooper said the festival remains a place for young, independent filmmakers to tell compelling stories. Admission committees sorted through close to 13,000 submissions. Cooper says what they ended up with are a series of films that cover diverse topics.

“There’s a lot that’s permeating our whole reality,” Cooper said. “Guns in America, abortion, the chipping away of what is supposed to be legal in the abortion world; We have a wonderful doc on that.”

This year is also the 10-year anniversary of the start of the Sundance New Frontier program. It’s a place where filmmakers can experiment with new technology. Sundance Institute Director Keri Putnam said the program features 30 different cinematic works based in virtual reality.

But directors say one of the most exciting things is the atmosphere the festival has created. It’s one that festival attendees say is felt up and down Main Street.

“It’s exciting to see some new films that I haven’t heard of because my mother-in-law is the film buff,” said attendee Elisabeth Greenberg. “She’s opening up my horizons, and we get to just see all the fun creative things that happen.”

The festival runs through January 31. Screenings are being shown at theaters across the Wasatch Front, including Salt Lake City and Ogden. Schedules and ticket information can be found online, here.