PARK CITY, Utah — An annual event that has brought so much joy over the year may lose some of its patrons.
The Sundance Film Festival announced that their 2021 in-person events would be moved to virtual due to the high volume of COVID-19 cases in Utah.
But some people who bought tickets before the change and paid extra for in-person benefits are disappointed by the festival's refund policies.
Though disappointed she won't be able to attend in person, Cheronne Anderson said she supports the move for the safety of all involved.
"I have respect for Sundance and what they’re doing to try and keep everyone healthy," said Anderson. "I’ve been a supporter for over 20 years, so my main concern is how they handled the tickets and options around tickets."
Anderson spent $400 on a 10 movie ticket package, which included other in-person benefits.
Yet, now that the event is virtual, individual movie tickets are selling at $20 per show.
"Had you originally bought 10 movies, it would have only cost $200," said Anderson. "There’s no indication they’ll refund that differential."
Scott Hossner lives out of state, but has traveled to Sundance for the past 15 years — a yearly vacation he looks forward to.
Hossner purchased a $750 package, which gave him 10 tickets along with in-person perks at the festival.
Yet, like Anderson, Hossner is now paying a much higher price for virtual tickets while others are purchasing the same tickets at a lower cost.
Like many others, Hossner reached out to customer service.
"They said, 'Hey, guess what, you can spend $75 for those same tickets,'" said Hossner. "They said, 'You can either have those 10 virtual tickets or you can donate your $750 to the festival — take it or leave it.' Those were the two options they presented."
In an email shared with FOX 13, a customer service representative explained to Hossner that the tickets were sold as a "hybrid package" for both in-person and online.
Instead of getting a refund, the representative told Hossner he could "gift his package to a friend or family member."
Sundance also offered to convert the package to a membership with the Institute or a "tax-deductible donation to the institute."
"I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars in Park City, in Salt Lake City, and at the festival over the years and I’ve enjoyed it every year," said Hossner. "Going forward, I would’ve anticipated doing the same for another 15 years. Instead, they’ve burned me and I’ve just said I’m never coming back."
Hossner, Anderson, and many others on social media said this former yearly tradition won't be on their calendars in the future.
"It feels like they’re passing that cost on to us, and it just really is insulting," said Anderson. "I’m hesitant to participate going forward."
In response to FOX 13's request for comment, Sundance issued the following statement Saturday night.
"For the Sundance Institute, the shift from hybrid to virtual comes at a great loss, emotionally, experientially and with a huge financial impact. We rely heavily on the Film Festival to continue our mission-centered work and the financial implications of this shift will inevitably impact the support we provide to artists year round. This is the last thing we want to do as a nonprofit Institute, and is one of the reasons why our hybrid products were set up as non-refundable . We need to be able to continue to champion the essential storytellers of this generation.
We hope that all who planned to attend in-person will bring their love of independent film and artists to our online platform, and we’ve provided options for those who wish to change their plans including — either additional tickets to films this year or partial credit towards the cost of ticket packages for the 2023 Festival.”