Whether you count yourself among Park City's many winter sports enthusiasts or its expanding audience of independent film fans, the community's livelihood depends to a large extent on the financial success of both the ski season and the Sundance Film Festival. Ensuring they each continue to flourish is currently at the top of the Park City Council's agenda.
For the last 29 years, Park City and the Sundance Film Festival have profited from a symbiotic relationship, governed by a long-term agreement and a detailed master festival license. The end of the current agreement, however, was looming in 2018 so the Sundance Institute, the city and a group of community business leaders including the lodging and restaurant associations and the Park City Chamber/Bureau, decided to get an early start on crafting an extension.
This week they unveiled a classic win-win contract that anticipates keeping the festival in Park City through 2026 and offers some important upgrades.
Foremost among the changes, Sundance has agreed to shift the dates of the festival to ensure it will not overlap with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. That long weekend, which did not exist when the festival first came to town, has become a popular winter vacation and therefore an important economic boon for the whole town.
Agreeing to bounce the festival around on the calendar is a big concession on Sundance's part. To Parkites, it might seem as though the Sundance Film Festival is the center of the film universe, but it is not. Like an Alpine World Cup race it is one component in a year-long series of international film industry events. Sundance has carefully cultivated its premier position and offering to be flexible could come at a cost to the institute.
That is why the new contract, wisely compensates Sundance for its willingness to adjust to the MLK dates.
As proposed the agreement now under consideration also clamps down on the guerilla marketers that descend on Park City during the festival in an effort to poach some of Sundance's limelight. The new regulations tighten up enforcement of sign codes, temporary business licenses and other safety issues which should come as a relief to everyone, not just Sundance organizers.
The agreement has yet to be signed but deserves to be a slam dunk. It has the potential to give both the MLK ski weekend and the festival more room to grow and seals a partnership that with Sundance has enriched Park City's brand far beyond its established reputation as a destination ski town.
The proposed contract will be up for a public hearing and a possible vote at the council's next meeting on Sept. 12.