Magazine article Sunset

Last-Minute Sundance

Magazine article Sunset

Last-Minute Sundance

Article excerpt

See movies. See stars. Here's Sunset's guide to the most enjoyable film festival in the world

FOR ALL THE BUZZ around the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah-all the velvet-rope swag boutiques, the Hilton-sister sightings, the private after-parties, and the backroom distribution deals-the festival has a surprising little secret: Civilians are welcome.

Sure, a prime hotel room at one of the town's swank resorts will cost you upwards of $450 a night and the festival's labyrinthine ticketing system requires an advance team and precision timing. Yet it's entirely possible to find an affordable place to stay, movie tickets, good food, and uncrowded spaces, even after the first curtain is lifted. You might even find yourself feigning nonchalance as you rub elbows with this year's It girl.

Plan your trip

Step 1: Choose your timing The festival runs January 18 to 28 this year, but the first half is for the industry. Better suited for the rest of us, the last half is when the crowds thin out, lodging opens up, and the festival gets closer to its indie origins. Celebrities still roam the streets, but in week two-especially on weekdays-the town can seem almost quiet.

Step 2: Find lodging Forget the overpriced hotels: Park City is a ski town, and that means there's an ample supply of condos to rent. Sharing a two- or three-bedroom place has the double advantage of saving money on lodging and on meals. For example, in January 2006 we went online and found a two-bedroom slopeside condo within walking distance to town for $350 a night. At $175 per couple, it was a relative bargain. And if you're willing to stay outside of town-such as at the Canyons or Deer Valley Resorts-prices can drop by $100 per night. (Word to the wise, though: In-town parking spaces are few and far between, and while many resorts run shuttles into town, some movie venues are far-flung. You'll need to plan ahead in order to sync up with the festival shuttle that runs between venues.) Your best strategy is to keep a close eye on Craigslist ( vac), where last-minute deals are posted right through the festival. Meanwhile, the Park City Chamber of Commerce (www.park or 800/453-1360) has a complete list of lodging options on its website and acts as an informal clearinghouse for last-minute vacancies in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Step 3: Get movie tickets Festival passes and ticket packages sold out months ago, but you can still buy individual tickets through Sundance's multistep ticket registration (resister by Jan 4; http://festival. …

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