• Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2024
After 40 years in Park City, Sundance exploring options for 2027 film festival and beyond
The marquee of the Egyptian Theatre appears during the Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 28, 2020, in Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival may not always call Park City home. The Sundance Institute has started to explore the possibility of other U.S. locations to host the independent film festival starting in 2027, the organization said Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP, File)

The Sundance Film Festival may not always call Park City, Utah, home. The Sundance Institute has started to explore the possibility of other U.S. locations to host the independent film festival starting in 2027, the organization said Wednesday.

The 2025 and 2026 festivals will still take place in Park City and Salt Lake City. But with the current contract up for renewal in 2027, the institute is taking steps to look at all options through a request for information and request for proposal process, beginning immediately. The final selection, which could still be Park City, is expected to be announced by early 2025.

"We are in a unique moment for our Festival and our global film community, and with the contract up for renewal, this exploration allows us to responsibly consider how we best continue sustainably serving our community while maintaining the essence of the Festival experience," said Eugene Hernandez, the festival's director.

Hernandez said they want to "ensure that the Festival continues to thrive culturally, operationally, and financially as it has for four decades."

Park City has been home to the Robert Redford-founded festival for 40 years. The festival and its sponsors take over many venues in the small city every January to transform it into a film festival hub with theaters in places like the library and a recreation center. Store fronts along the city's charming Main Street become exclusive lounges for actors and filmmakers, and restaurants host cast parties after global film premieres.

Mayor Nann Worel said she does not want the festival to leave Park City, which has grown into a world-renowned mountain town since Sundance first put it on the map decades ago.

"We appreciate our partnership with Sundance, and we want the Festival to remain here for another 40 years," Worel said.

She committed Wednesday to working with state leaders and local partners to discuss the festival's future. Last year's hybrid festival generated just over $118 million for the state of Utah, according to Sundance's 2023 economic impact report.

Sundance has also been a launching pad for many top filmmakers over the years and has hosted premieres for eventual Oscar nominees and winners, including "CODA," their first best picture winner, and the past three documentary winners "20 Days in Mariupol,""Navalny" and "Summer of Soul." The Utah festival received a record number of submissions last year.

The festival has long sparred with local ski resorts — Park City's other major money maker — as more than 86,000 festivalgoers fill the hotels and leave the slopes virtually empty for two weeks during peak ski season.

The festival has made concessions over the years, such as moving more screenings to neighboring Salt Lake City and shifting its dates slightly so ski areas could cash in on a holiday weekend. But, like the resorts, it cannot afford to miss the early weeks of winter. Sundance has positioned itself as the first major film festival of each calendar year, meaning it's the first stop for many of the best new projects from around the globe.

Deer Valley Resort, home to Park City's skiers-only slopes, said Wednesday that it views its relationship with Sundance as mutually beneficial and strongly supports keeping the festival in town.

"Like Deer Valley, Sundance Film Festival is an integral part of Park City and greater Utah," spokesperson Emily Summers said in a statement. "We support the festival and its long history within the community."

"Park City Mountain values all that the Sundance Film Festival brings to our community each year, and we hope it will continue to call Park City and Utah home," said Sara Huey, a Park City Mountain Resort spokesperson.

Redford, who stepped back from the Sundance spotlight years ago, expressed concern in 2016 that the festival as it existed might have outgrown Park City and was thinking about ways to evolve. He and his daughter, Amy Redford, who is on the board, have been involved in the process announced Wednesday.

Last month, the Institute's CEO Joana Vicente stepped down after two and a half years in the position. Amanda Kelso, a member of the board, was appointed acting CEO, but no permanent replacement has been announced.

Lindsey Bahr is an AP film writer

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