1 of 2
Sundance Film Festival
Robert Duvall, Lucas Black and Bill Murray star in director Aaron Schneider's "Get Low."

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival kicked off Thursday in Park City, high above the often-smoggy Salt Lake Valley.

Today, though, it's time for the festival to "get low."

The festival begins its Salt Lake City programming tonight with two screenings of "Get Low," a comedy-drama that stars Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek.

Duvall and Murray are expected to be there for the festival's Salt Lake City Gala event at the Rose Wagner Center, as is the film's director, Aaron Schneider.

The first-time filmmaker already showed his '30s-era fable at the recent Toronto Film Festival, but said that being the focus of a premiere event is "nerve-wrecking."

"I'm looking forward to seeing how the film is received by a (U.S.) audience. I've heard that the Salt Lake City crowds for Sundance are very warm, so I'm eager to share my movie with them," Schneider said by telephone from Southern California.

Director of Programming Trevor Groth described the movie as a "crowd pleaser," saying it is was not selected for the festival "simply because it has some big names in it."

"This was one of the best films we saw all year. And with this cast, you expect some terrific performances," Groth said.

The Salt Lake gala is among several events during the 10-day film showcase that are designed to show off Salt Lake City, Sundance's supposed "second home."

Festival organizers also hope that having programming alternatives in the capital city may help alleviate congestion in the festival's main hub, Park City.

"(Sundance) has grown as big as it possibly can in Park City," festival director John Cooper said. "We've been bursting at the seams for years, and fortunately, we still have some room for growth in Salt Lake City."

Of course, the efforts to create could cause some congestion in the Salt Lake Valley.

After all, two of the festival's three screening venues — the Rose Wagner Center and Broadway Centre — are located within three blocks of each other on 300 South.

And the so-called "festival corridor" — along Salt Lake's 300 South — also features the official "festival cafe," the Beehive Tea Room.

That quaint location, 12 W. 300 South, will feature food and drink for Sundance attendees, as well as daily musical performances.

(The third festival screening venue is the Tower Theatre, located in the popular Ninth and Ninth business block.)

The 2010 edition of the Sundance Film Festival actually opened Thursday, with the debut of the feature "Howl," starring James Franco, the documentary feature "Restrepo" and one of the various shorts collections. These lower-key premieres all featured films that are in competition at the festival.

Sundance continues through Jan. 31, with screenings of movies in its independent film showcase and competitions, as well as panel discussions and parties, both official and unofficial.

One of this weekend's hottest tickets is expected to be the premiere of "The Runaways" on Sunday at Park City's Eccles Centre. The film features "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in its cast.

Other big-name events include premiere screenings of the corporate downsizing drama "The Company Men," starring Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones, "Welcome to the Rileys," which also stars Stewart and James Gandolfini, and "Twelve," a dramatic thriller featuring television star Chace Crawford ("Gossip Girl") and Kiefer Sutherland ("24").

That latter film will be featured in a supposed "closing night" event that will be held two days before the festival's conclusion.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com