Sundance movie goers frustrated over the non-refundable policy
Sundance Festival canceled in-person events in Park City, and some who bought ticket packages aren't happy with the non-refundable policy.
The virtual Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday (Jan 20). Since there won't be in-person screenings, some ticket purchasers want refunds of their $750 packages, or full credits for a future in-person event.
Festival Director Tabitha Jackson said this year's decision to cancel in-person events is different from last year's festival planning. The festival didn't have the same expenses or last-minute cancellations in 2021.
"You know, last year, we made the decision not to proceed in person because of delta--because none of us were vaccinated at that point. And we did that in June, I think. We made the decision to focus on building an online platform. All the costs involved in putting on an in-person festival were out late by the time the data came in, and this crazy transmissible variant came up."
Sundance is a non-profit organization, and Jackson said it has obligations to the artists and the industry. She said this year, organizers made sure to note that ticket packages were non-refundable. After the cancelation occurred, Sundance offered a $200 credit to be applied toward next year's festival.
"So, what we were very careful to do in our ticket product offerings was to note very clearly that these products are not refundable. We wanted nevertheless to recognize the trust and good faith that people have in Sundance." said Jackson.
Parkite Bob Knox has been a devoted Sundance attendee since 2008. He, his wife, and another out-of-town couple purchase ticket packages each year. He said the non-refundable clause did not identify that it included cancelation of in-person events.
Knox’s group bought one Salt Lake and three ticket packages for $2,600 and selected all the films they wanted to see. Knox said with the changes, they’ve lost all their movies and must use the virtual online selection process, which he called unreliable.
"Once we communicated with Sundance, looked at sort of the rules which just kept changing. We said we're forgetting about it. We're not doing it because it's too confusing and uncertain. If you've read social media, you'll find people who have actually bought the online packages and then found that they get canceled and that they have to start all over again."
Knox said he is not asking for a refund and would be willing to pay an administrative fee to help cover the cost of reissuing tickets in the future. But he’s unhappy with the handling of the switch and is talking to his credit card company about it.
"We don't know what American Express is going to do, but we know a lot of other people have the same problem. American Express tries to resolve disputes like this. My guess is they must have many, many of their clients who are coming to them with the same. What we've said is this, if you gave us tickets for next year, just gave us credits to buy tickets next year, we'd be fine."
Sundance's Jackson said the non-profit has year-round financial obligations that prevent it from refunding full package costs.
"All these tickets were kind of flexible so you could pivot to online and still have the festival--still see the films--still meet the artists as it were through our platforms. But yeah, it's a position that none of us want to be in, and we are making the best of it. And we have been heartened actually by the response of most people who understand the position we're in, and we're in a global health crisis."
The $750.00 package included ten tickets. Virtual Sundance Festival tickets are $25.00 per film.