Queer Lounge moves digs | ParkRecord.com

Queer Lounge moves digs

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The gay hotspot during the Sundance Film Festival will be across the city from its traditional digs.

The organizers of the Queer Lounge, returning to Park City for the fourth time later this month, rented space at the Silver King Hotel, opting for the Park City Mountain Resort neighborhood instead of the bustling Main Street core.

They expect that the address will not matter that much: the Queer Lounge has become a buzz-generating, happening part of film-festival week. This year the lounge plans parties, panel discussions and will provide a suite for people to mingle, a similar setup to the arrangements the lounge had at the Gateway Center in Old Town before.

The Queer Lounge, a not-for-profit, rented space on the hotel’s fourth floor. Ellen Huang, the lounge’s founder and executive director, says all-year tenants occupy some of the space in the Gateway Center that the lounge used to occupy for the festival. She says the rents in the Main Street area are pricier, a reason for the new location. The lounge will be open Jan. 19-23, a shorter run than before. Huang says the condensed schedule is less expensive.

Huang, a former filmmaker from Los Angeles who identifies herself as bisexual, says she is happy that the lounge has become a famous spot during the film festival. The popularity, she says, is not threatening the Queer Lounge’s role of advancing gay filmmakers and films.

"I don’t feel it’s diluting. It means the message is going to a broader audience," Huang says. "The message is that there’s still a lot to fight for."

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The Queer Lounge, which has upset a few conservatives since it appeared in 2004, has also turned into an important place for discussions about gay rights and filmmaking and movies with gay themes.

In its first year, the Queer Lounge opened as a Salt Lake City movie theater refused to show "Latter Days," about a closeted gay Mormon missionary. The film’s director spoke during a well-publicized discussion about the movie at the Queer Lounge that year, one of the first in a series of noteworthy talks at the Queer Lounge.

This year the Queer Lounge has scheduled what will likely be another headline-grabbing panel, a Jan. 22 discussion about religious agendas and their role in moviemaking. Filmmakers from "For the Bible Tells Me So," a Sundance documentary about the religious right and gays, plan to speak. The next day, the Queer Lounge plans to throw a party for the moviemakers in a rented Main Street gallery. Gene Robinson, a gay bishop from New Hampshire featured in "For the Bible Tells Me So," is expected to attend the Jan. 23 party.

Huang acknowledges, in 2007, demonstrators could target the Queer Lounge, drawn by the topics that panelists expect to talk about. There have been a few protesters in the past and as the Queer Lounge was preparing for its first year someone wrote a ‘letter to the editor’ to The Park Record condemning the lounge’s appearance. Many others at the time then wrote to the newspaper in support of the lounge organizers.

At the lounge, the organizers plan to offer a bar, Internet terminals and wireless networks. Most activities at the Queer Lounge are public. Nighttime events are planned off the grounds.

Huang says she hopes to find space on Main Street or just off the street as early as the 2008 edition. In 2006, the lounge drew between 7,000 and 8,000 people when it was at the Gateway Center. She predicts the attendance will be about the same in 2007.

Last fall, the Queer Lounge expanded to the Toronto International Film Festival, another renowned festival, and Huang says Queer Lounges may start at other festivals like the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and South by Southwest, a music and film festival in Austin, Texas. The Austin lounge could launch in 2008, she says.

"It’s much more important to get to a broader audience" of both gays and straights, Huang says.

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