PARK CITY, Utah - Film takes place, Sundance told us in its motto this year. Also, celebrities take over. Parties, gifting suites and gawking have grown far beyond a mere sideshow at the country's most visible film festival.
In droves, socialites and wannabes made the trek a half-hour northeast of Salt Lake City for chilly but glamorous nightlife in warehouse spaces branded with the stamp of clubs like New York's Butter. A publicist for one mountain chateau after-hours party boasted of turning away Bono because there were too many people in his entourage.
And though festival founder Robert Redford bemoaned the presence of celebutantes like Paris Hilton, who he says doesn't "have anything to do with anything," Hollywood's attention-mongers simply couldn't resist.
A Fred Segal gifting boutique outside the town ski lift became Park City's version of Kitson or Koi. Paparazzi dutifully gathered on the sidewalk from sunrise until it got just too darn cold (temperatures hovered near zero at night).
Photographers' faces scrunched up quizzically at anybody bold enough to stroll down Main Street holding big shopping bags. If they were important enough to be given free stuff, were they important enough to shoot? It was a double-bulbed spotlight: the brands hoping to gain exposure also lent at least a few camera snaps to their sometimes unknown recipients.
If paparazzi and stock photo agencies missed a shot, gifting suites sent out press releases filling in the blanks. Kim Kardashian and her NFL beau Reggie Bush were regular freebie gatherers.
In an announcement of who collected Xbox 360 consoles, the "Kenneth Cole Reaction Lounge at Stereo" listed Hilton nine names before gossip king Perez Hilton. Perez was followed on the list by Olivia Wilde, Cisco Adler and "High School Musical's" KayCee Stroh, "among many others."
On the fest's first night, rapper Chamillionaire dined on veal and salmon from an Orange County chef. Across the table was Rex Lee of "Entourage," awaiting an Akon performance in an upstairs club.
Off Main Street, you could be silently startled by the sight of a bundled-up Colin Farrell typing on a phone, Dennis Hopper smoking a cigar or Quentin Tarantino chatting with fellow Sundance juror Sandra Oh outside a theatre. Crispin Glover trudged unnoticed through the snow outside a gathering attended by Elisabeth Shue and Steve Coogan. Mischa Barton rushed past photographers on the way to a party.
At the laid-back Entertainment Weekly party on Saturday, Tom Arnold, who appears in (count 'em!) three Sundance films, wandered about. Oscar-nominated "Juno" filmmaker Jason Reitman raved about the documentary "American Teen" as DJ played crowd-pleasers like "Billie Jean."
Later, the Motorola party saw the Hilton sisters taking stock by the door, Diego Luna chatting with admirer, and DJ Samantha Ronson pumping her fist. Nintendo Wii consoles were set up in the corners for drunken virtual bowling.
Sean Combs, after a series of interviews to promote "A Raisin in the Sun," emerged into a light snowfall on Park Avenue talking about Oscar nominee "There Will Be Blood."
When a reporter praised the latter film, Combs whipped off his brown knit ski cap and whacked him playfully in the shoulder.
"'A Raisin in the Sun' is a good movie too! You better come see it."
Who said anything about going to see movies?