Sundance Selects SF’s Roxie Theater as Sole NorCal Venue for 2021 Festival

For the first time, the Sundance Film Festival is partnering with film presenters across the country for in-person screenings. San Francisco's Roxie Theater is the only theater in Northern California selected to show Sundance programming in 2021.  (Courtesy Sundance Film Festival)

For the first time, Bay Area movie buffs won’t have to trek out to snowy Utah to experience the Sundance Film Festival in January.

San Francisco’s Roxie Theater will play host to the week-long festival’s lineup of movies, talks and other events.

Sundance selected the Roxie, a historic indie theater with two screens, as one of 33 partner film presenters around the country. It’s the only Northern California theater chosen to partner with the festival. The other two presenters in California are near Los Angeles.

“Thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S. we are not putting on our festival alone,” said Sundance Festival Director Tabitha Jackson in a statement released Wednesday. “At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique—a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed.”

The Roxie Theater is among the 33 presenters selected by Sundance around the country to screen 2021 festival programming. (Courtesy Roxie Theater)

According to a Sundance representative, the Institute has previously led and collaborated on domestic and international public film programs, but this is the first time the annual festival’s full program has been available beyond Park City.

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Like many other cultural events these days, the Sundance Festival is also happening online.

And unless the COVID-19-related health and safety restrictions lift in time for the 2021 event, which runs Jan. 28–Feb. 3, the in-person screenings will take place at the Fort Mason Drive-In, and not at the theater’s home-base in the Mission District.

The Roxie’s director of programming, Isabel Fondevila, told KQED the festival’s organizers reached out to her over the summer about the potential collaboration.

“We’re not sure why we are the only partner theater in Northern California because there are definitely a lot of fantastic independent movie theaters around here,” Fondevila said. “The Roxie has been around for a while and has a reputation for its programing and curation. We do show mostly independent films, and that includes a lot of films that have come out of Sundance. So I think those things helped.”

Under the terms of the partnership, Fondevila said Sundance is making a financial contribution to all of the satellite screen partners, including the Roxie, to help cover some of the costs associated with putting together the festival in the many remote locations.

Fondevila said the festival is also providing its partners with additional resources, like sponsorship knowhow. Plus, the Roxie gets to keep all of the income from festival ticket sales in San Francisco.

“Sundance does not need to do satellite screenings all over the country,” Fondevila said. “But they really believe a healthy ecosystem for artists and audiences requires that independent cinemas across the country survive and thrive.”