For more than ten years, I have attended Sundance Film Festival, usually with group of 8 or more people. Without knowing how the system works, getting tickets for one or ten films is not easy. Unless you are a Utah resident or have the cash to become a member of the Patron Circle, below is a guide on the options for getting tickets to Sundance film screenings.
Legit Option A: Buy Ticket Packages or Passes
Ticket packages and passes are great ways to enjoy the festival. They come with both tickets and credentials which allow broader access to festival venues. Another benefit is that package and pass holders have priority ticket selection. These are highly sought after options and in effort to ensure fairness in distribution they are made available thought something similar to a three dimensional matrix where you never know whats going on until its too late. Meaning, one has to register for a randomly assigned buying window -which- does not necessarily guarantee access to any pass or package. If one has acquired a pass or package, they have to wait again until early January for another randomly assigned window to allocate tickets to the films one wishes to see and that does not guarantee one will be able to acquire tickets – I have had cases where I could not get any tickets – just vouchers which can be exchanged at the box office or venues. It’s a bit irritating, but its probably the fairest process for distributing tickets I have observed.
The buying window for packages and passes is usually 3-4 days long. By the last day, only the most expensive options are left – if any at all. To increase chances of getting a window in the first 48 hours where options are abundant, be sure to have several people register for the pass buying window. Its important to use real people/addresses, they screen for duplicate registrations. By way of example, when 5 or 6 people register for a pass buying window, at least two always get a selection time in the first 48 hours. Note that in each buying window one can buy a total of two packages and passes, but not two of the same. Note that transferring passes and packages is complicated!
Legit Option B: Day of Showing Ticket Line
This is an ‘early bird gets the worm’ type of deal. Each night the box office managers takes inventory of unallocated tickets for each film. I can’t say for sure, but it seems they do keep a number of hold backs for all but the most high demand films. Around midnight, they post the film schedule on the box office door with the number of tickets available for the next days showings. The Festival Box Office in Park City opens at 8:00am every morning. As of recent there are 6-8 different lines open at once. This means that the first 6-8 people have a good chance of getting tickets for the films they wish to see. The first 20-30 people have a decent chance. After that the inventory is limited to the less popular films. This is where the early bird tactic comes into play. At 5am, there are usually 3-5 people in line – they have been there all night. At 5:30 there are 10; at 6am there are 20 plus. By 7am there are usually 100+. What I am saying here is if one shows up to the festival with no tickets, but can get to the box office by 5:30am every day, there is a great change of getting tickets to all but the high demand films. Note: one person can only by 4 tickets for one film.
Quasi Legit Option C: Extra Tickets
Similar to other ticket markets, people have extra tickets for a variety of reasons. Although ticket resale is not allowed at the festival, it does occur and there is no efficient exchange for those with extra tickets. Consequently, its pretty easy to get tickets from someone who has an extra. The best way to acquire a ticket is to arrive at the screening venue 20-30 minutes before the film begins. Take a position by the festival shuttle bus stop (or the flow of foot traffic from such) and just ask the passers by if they have an extra ticket. Some times they just give them away an other times its a face value exchange. Tickets as of recent are $20.