Sundance 2016 was buzzing last weekend with movie premiere parties and events celebrating independent filmmakers. To bring you the inside scoop, below is a list of the Top 12 Movie Parties in Park City, Utah, during the first weekend when 50,000+ entertainment industry professionals took over the town. By far, Acura and Chase Sapphire gave the best parties, and without these sponsors, Sundance would not be the same. You can also watch our RECAP VIDEO: Best of Sundance 2016.
1. “The Birth of a Nation” Premiere Party – Chase Sapphire hosted this premiere party on Main Street, where we heard about the 8-minute standing ovation through “The Birth of a Nation” film credits from Armie Hammer (“The Lone Ranger”). This party was at the Claim Jumper, and we were fortunate to hang out with Darren Criss from “Glee.” We also met “The Birth of a Nation” cast member Mark Boone Junior from the “Sons of Anarchy.” Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, and director/ writer Nate Parker were also there celebrating their drama about a slave liberation movement in the South.
2. “The Hollars” Cocktail Party – Big thanks to Acura for hosting an awesome cocktail party with the cast of “The Hollars”, including John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Charlie Day, and Josh Groban. The film premiered last night (Friday, January 29) at Eccles Theatre, and just got sold to Sony Classics. We were fortunate to enjoy a buffet dinner in the Press Room, and get a chance to talk to the stars about their latest projects.
3. “Yoga Hosers” Premiere Party – Kevin Smith and his daughter Harley Quinn Smith were at this pre-premiere party also hosted by Chase Sapphire on Main Street. The cast and producers were getting ready for the red carpet premiere that night at The Library Theater, and we had fun talking to cast member Austin Butler and Producer Elizabeth Destro. Honestly, the Chase Sapphire teams were the best of all the movie parties. Sundance can get crazy, and their team made the events relaxed so you could enjoy good food and quality conversations.
4. “Antibirth” Cocktail Party – Acura also hosted an awesome cocktail party before the premiere of “Antibirth” starring Natasha Lyonne (“American Pie”) and Chloë Sevigny (“American Psycho”). We were fortunate to meet Executive Producer Lee Broda, who told us what it was like to be in the room often with all men, and how she got the film funded. We could hear a packed Acura concert in the courtyard outside during this party, where they had live music every night.
5. Catdance Film Festival – We also interviewed Catdance Host Hannah Simone from “New Girl” at the 2016 Annual Catdance Film Festival in Park City at Cisero’s on Main Street. In addition to screening the best in feline films, the Catdance Film Festival debuted a fun virtual reality experience presented by new Fresh Step® with the Power of Febreze™.
6. “Sing Street” Premiere Party – The Weinstein Company hosted a private “Sing Street” premiere party at the Samsung Studio with stars Mark McKenna, Lucy Boynton, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and writer/director John Carney. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (16) was a blast, and explained it was at his first Sundance. Ferdia and Mark McKenna gave a private concert at this party, and we told them to mark this date as the day their lives changed forever.
7. PBS American Masters – PBS announced the launch of American Masters Pictures at their PBS Sundance party at Cisero’s on Friday night. It’s their first theatrical imprint for documentaries that are co-produced by the American Masters series and executive produced by Michael Kantor. The party was celebrating several films including, “Maya Angelou and Still I Rise”. We met Producer and Co-director Rita Coburn Whack (directorial debut) and her husband Hal at the bar.
8. “The Greasy Strangler” Premiere Party – Everyone was wearing hot pink wool hats that said “Greasy” at this premiere party for “The Greasy Strangler”. Celebrity guests included Elijah Wood, Zach Cowie and Andrew Hun. “Mellow Mushroom” was the primary sponsor, and they gifted celebrities designer t-shirts, while everyone enjoyed greasy hotdogs and creamy cocktails.
9. WGN “Underground” Party – Following a panel discussion, “Underground” Executive Producer and Academy Award Winner John Legend and the cast and crew celebrated the premiere of WGN’s thriller about united plantation slaves. This party was held at Bueno Vida’s VIDA TEQUILA Lounge, which had the best drinks and gourmet pizza. We were fortunate to meet the star Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“True Blood”, “Parenthood”). Honestly, “Underground” gave away the best gift bags because it had a portable phone charger and a pocket with a zipper that was great for carrying things around for the rest of the festival! Watch this show on WGN!
10. Dropbox Happy Hour at Zoom – Dropbox hosted one of the best happy hours to celebrate filmmakers on Monday at Robert Redford’s restaurant Zoom on Main Street. We enjoyed meeting Maya Angelou’s grandson Colin Johnson, and his friend from PBS WETA Troy Mosley. Dropbox also hosted a panel series #DropboxinFilm, featuring conversations with industry influencers like Louis Black and Karen Bernstein, who co-directed and produced Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny, a documentary on the life and work of filmmaker Richard Linklater.
11. ESPN Party OJ Movie – ESPN Films’ Official hosted a Sundance Premiere Party at Cisero’s on Main Street for the upcoming “30 for 30” Miniseries Event “OJ: Made in America”. ESPN Films celebrated this five-part documentary miniseries examining race through tracing O.J. Simpson’s professional and criminal trajectory.
12. Gersh’s AFC Championship Football Viewing Party – Ok, don’t even asked me who played in the football game, but the Gersh party was a lot of fun and filled with interesting filmmakers. We were way too busy networking, and enjoyed meeting Actress and Director Shana Betz (“Free Ride”) and Christian Meoli (Arena Cinema Hollywood).
After the parties are all over, it’s now time to dig out from our blizzard of our Sundance 2016 content. We are grateful to the sponsors, filmmakers, press and organizers for spotlighting independent film in Park City. With 8 years of Sundance experience now, 2016 was one of the best festivals by far!
© @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist