City Hall and Sundance Film Festival organizers could restart discussions within weeks about the long-term future of the festival in Park City, something that has been looming for months but remains unresolved as Sundance's 2013 edition ends.
The talks will likely cover numerous issues, including what has appeared to be a point of contention centered on the frequent overlapping of the festival and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day national holiday.
The discussions could restart as early as February. A timeline for a resolution has not been outlined. Much of the negotiating will occur in private sessions, and it is not known how much information will be released as the talks are ongoing. The Park City Council would be required to approve an agreement during a public meeting.
City Hall and Sundance in 2005 inked an agreement to hold the festival in Park City through 2018 with a 10-year option attached to the deal. Notice that the 10-year-option will be exercised must be given by 2015. The deal in 2005 also made it possible for Sundance to move its year-round headquarters to Park City from Salt Lake City.
It is unlikely that either side will want to approach the option deadline without having reached a decision. Sundance, especially, would need time to make other arrangements for the festival if the option is not exercised.
Diane Foster, the interim Park City manager, said she is hopeful that an agreement is reached to exercise the option. Jonathan Weidenhamer, who directs City Hall's economic development efforts and has a key role in the municipal government's relations with Sundance, said the overlapping of the festival and Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be a part of the upcoming discussions.
"I believe we're negotiating in good faith to exercise that option," Weidenhamer said.
The resort industry would prefer the festival and Martin Luther King Jr. Day not overlap, arguing that the three-day weekend would be busy with skiers if Sundance was not occurring at the same time. The thinking is the resort industry could enjoy a lucrative holiday weekend in addition to the 11-day Sundance run. Sundance, though, sees its January scheduling as being important since it is the first major film festival on the annual circuit.
It is not known to what degree Park City leaders will press the issue, but it seems that City Hall would not break off the talks about the option based solely on the scheduling conflict between the festival and the holiday. Sundance is the most lucrative event on Park City's calendar, with the lodging and restaurant industries being among the business sectors that enjoy strong numbers.
Foster said a resolution to the scheduling conflict is not a precondition to reaching an agreement to exercise the option with Sundance.
The upcoming talks could cover other points, perhaps financial terms of the agreement and some logistical issues, but the scheduling appears to overshadow the others.
A Sundance spokesperson said this week organizers are focused on this year's festival and did not discuss the upcoming negotiations. The festival ends on Sunday.