Despite snowstorm, Amherst Cinema enjoys hosting selections from the Sundance Film Festival

  • Amherst Cinema staff — Alex Hornbeck, left, Yasmin Eisenhauer and George Myer — battle the elements while screening new films from the Sundance Film Festival. CONTRIBUTED/Yasmin Eisenhauer

Staff Writer
Monday, February 07, 2022

AMHERST — A snowstorm, icy temperatures and COVID-19 seemed to conspire against Amherst Cinema last weekend when the movie house served as one of seven independent U.S. movie theaters hosting selected movies from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

But Yasmin Eisenhauer, Amherst Cinema’s executive director, said audience members and staff alike had a great experience at the theater, which screened several features and short films Friday through Sunday that were part of Sundance’s “Satellite Screens” program.

“Every person who came through the door had a story to tell about how they were determined to come out to this, despite the weather,” she said. (Eisenhauer says over 300 tickets were sold for the mini-festival.)

In fact, the best-attended film was “Alice,” a time-traveling story and a nod to the “Blaxploitation” films of the 1970s, which played Saturday afternoon during the snowstorm.

Eisenhauer noted that because the Sundance Film Festival was forced to go online again this year because of the spread of the omicron variant, only people who came to the Amherst Cinema or the other theaters in the satellite program were able to see films from the festival in person.

“That felt really good — to settle in and see a film on a big screen with other people, to have that sense of community,” said Eisenhauer, who noted that some audience members came to the theater from Boston. (The cinema has also been limited to 50% normal capacity due to COVID since the beginning of the new year.)

Amherst Cinema plans to bring some of these selected Sundance films back later this year, as it’s done with with previous movies from the festival. The theater has also just opened a screening of “Flee,” the 2021 Sundance Festival’s Grand Jury Prize winner.

In addition, the theater plans to apply to host the satellite program again next year, assuming Sundance goes ahead with it (the program debuted in January 2021).

“Bringing Sundance here was really a wonderful way to begin 2022,” Eisenhauer said.