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Let The Games Begin

An Inside Look at “Camp Sundance” with the film festival’s first ticket buyers

by katie eldridge

Last weekend, Sundance Film Festival tickets went on sale to locals. Some movie buffs, a few hired buyers, and other stragglers put in serious hours of waiting to be the first ones to get their paws on what they thought are the best tickets. Here’s a first-hand look at the bizarre all-nighter that has become tradition for many.

Friday, January 5th 6:30 p.m. Here we go. Showing up 13 hours early to buy Sundance tickets. It’s asinine really. So you think I’m crazy? What about the other 20 people who got here before me? I think I have a good excuse: easy money. Someone is paying me 200-bucks to do this. Meantime, we’ve taken over the lobby of the Gateway Center in hopes of staying here all night.

7:30 p.m. Some idiot has the gall to ask, “What time is it?”

8 p.m. “Will” from Peak Security saunters into the center in his “rent-a-cop” outfit announcing we will all be kicked out at 10:30. We tell Will we can get him a better job, and a better outfit if he lets us stay. Chances look slim. But like at any overnighter in Park City, things are beginning to heat up.

Additional Background: John and Tim are our unofficial leaders. Both have done this line gig for more than a decade. Tim always seems to be first in line with his wife. John is the Grand Poobah. He talks to the authorities and watches over “the list.” Making sure none of us lose the spot we have earned in line.

9:30 p.m. The line has grown to about 35 people. Some try to sleep while others pray Will won’t return. A few of us pick out what we think will be this year’s best flick while beer and various flasks are passed around. It’s a much quieter affair than last year. Why? John Helton didn’t show up.

10:25 p.m. Lo-Fi Breakdown wanders into the foyer. “We were just bored,” they announce. “Is anyone too tired for bluegrass?” No way. A jam session ensues.

10:35 p.m. The concert is short-lived. Will returns and delivers the orders. “Camp Sundance” loads up and moves out into the cold night air. All the while serenaded by the sweet tunes of Lo-Fi.

10:36 p.m. The move produces some tension. Where’s “The List?” There’s mild unrest until people settle into their new outdoor spots… and until the propane heater (thank you Dave!) is up and running.

By dawn there are more than 200 people camping outside with thermarests, expo bags, blankets and pillows. The line wraps from the Gateway Center onto Main Street. At 7 a.m. we’re allowed inside. Friends and relatives congratulate those who have pulled a successful all-nighter. This may be the closest some of us get to being heroes. By 8:30 everyone has been designated a time to return to buy tickets. It’s been a good night. Sure, the concrete was hard and cold… but this is tradition. This is Park City. And this is Sundance… before LA takes over.