Sundance films in Ogden have a history of success

Wednesday , January 20, 2016 - 2:51 PM

By RACHEL J. TROTTER
Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN — As Sundance starts this week, many wonder what films will make it big after they show at the festival. Many Ogden locals wonder if any of those films will be those that screen at Ogden’s own Peery’s Egyptian Theater.

Local theater experts respond with a resounding “yes” to that question.

“The thing about Ogden is that there are so many seats in our theater, we get a lot of the heavy hitters and talked about films,” said John Snow, production supervisor at the Egyptian Theater.

There are many films which have had great success, either critically or in popularity, after showing at Sundance in Ogden, Snow said. Films like “Austenland,” starring Keri Russell, debuted in Ogden and were local favorites. “Locally people loved it,” Snow said of the Russell film. “It didn’t do super well on a national level, but it was a fun film.”

“Little Miss Sunshine” debuted at Ogden during Sundance and was nominated for best picture in the 2007 Academy Awards.

“Napoleon Dynamite” won both critical acclaim and a huge national popularity, while Snow said “500 Days of Summer,” also an Ogden premier, cost just more than $1 million to produce but made $60 million at the box office.

A trio of films starring Ethan Hawke — “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “13 Before Midnight” — debuted in Ogden over a series of almost 20 years.

“Safety Not Guaranteed” was also a standout, said Ryan McDonald, a local independent filmmaker. The film’s director, Colin Trevorrow, also directed “Jurassic World.” McDonald said “Safety Not Guaranteed” was a gem of a film.

“Laggies,” starring Keira Knightley, is another film which has since been popular on Netflix, McDonald said.

Critically acclaimed documentaries have had great success with their debuts in Ogden, Snow said.

“People love to see the (documentaries) because they know they won’t see them much in regular theaters, so watching them at Sundance works for them,” Snow said.

The film “The Crash Reel” was successful in 2013. “People here liked it because it related to skiing and traumatic brain injuries in skiers,” Snow said.

“Waiting for Superman,” a documentary about public education, also found critical success as well as a huge national following, especially among teachers, after it debuted in Ogden.

The documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” debuted in Ogden and went on to win the Academy Award for best documentary in 2013.

Matt Choberka, chair of the Visual Performing Arts and Design program at Weber State University, remembers being at the “Searching for Sugar Man” premiere when the director, Malik Bendjelloul, came with one of the stars of the show. “No one knew at that time the success that film would have, but it went on to be one of the most successful of the festival that year,” Choberka said.

Snow said the “Best of Fest” screenings each year are also great. The top films from the festival are screened at the Egyptian Theater twice, for free, on the Monday after Sundance ends.

“It’s really a crapshoot, Snow said. “You don’t what you’re going to get because you have to get the tickets before Sundance opens and you don’t know what films are going to win awards.” Tickets for Best of Fest screenings usually go on sale a week prior to Sundance, but the 2016 screenings on Feb. 1 are already sold out.

“The cool thing about Sundance is that you can really see what films you want if you do it the right way,” Snow said.

The right way? Use the Sundance website or get the app (Sundance Film Festival 2016), put your name on the waiting list and show up to get your seats, Snow said.

In Ogden, Snow said, locals can use the app or head to the theater about one hour before a show starts, get their name on the wait list and, usually, a seat will be theirs.

“Sure you have to get on a wait list, and sure you have to pay 20 bucks, but it’s worth it,” Snow said. “It’s Sundance.”

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