People on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival starting late next week will see some unusual storefronts.
Corporate interests, as is the case each year during the film festival, have signed rental agreements with businesses or building owners allowing them to occupy the high-profile spaces on or just off of Main Street.
This year's corporate rental business is solid, continuing its comeback from the recession, one of the key figures representing the side of the businesses and owners renting the properties said.
Mike Sweeney, a Park City businessman whose family has interests along Main Street, rated this year's rental trend a '7' or an '8' on a scale of 1 to 10. He said he and his partners had negotiated between 15 and 20 rentals by early in the week, nearly all of them in the Main Street district. A little less than half involve properties controlled by his family or Sweeney partners.
He said a few more deals could be finalized prior to the festival starting next Thursday. Sweeney said he was aware of five or six properties that were available for Sundance rentals but had not completed a deal by early in the week.
"It might be slightly down from last year, which was up from the year before," Sweeney said about the corporate rental market.
He said the prices, though, remain down from the heady days prior to the recession. Businesses and building owners do not release numbers, but it is believed the most lucrative rentals reach toward six figures if not break the $100,000 mark. This year, Sweeney said, he has negotiated deals into the high five digits.
He called the numbers "reasonable" and said the market is not overpricing itself. The businesses or the building owners that enter into the agreements see them as a chance to make a significant amount of money in a short period. They also might not see the Sundance crowds as their target market, making a rental even more attractive to them.
The corporate interests are willing to pay those sorts of prices for locations with high visibility along Main Street. They usually redo the spaces into showcases for their brand, putting up corporate marks and filling the places with products. The most ambitious send in construction crews to build a custom space that is torn down when they move out.
Many allow the public inside at some points, perhaps in the daytime, and hold private events at other times. The locations sometimes also serve as gifting suites where celebrities are showered with merchandise.
The rentals peak early in the festival, when celebrity power in Park City is at its height. Some of the deals cover just the first weekend and perhaps early into the week while some involve the entire run of Sundance. Sweeney said most of the rentals he has been involved in this year cover the first Friday of Sundance through the following Monday.
Main Street will likely be busy early next week as the construction crews start to remake the rented spaces. Trucks loaded with furnishings also are usually seen on Main Street as the opening of the festival nears. The workers are seen emptying the trucks of tables, chairs and other furnishings and bringing them into the spaces.
The rentals sit alongside a string of official festival venues that are also on or just off of Main Street, including the main box office at the Gateway Center, the screening room at the Egyptian Theatre and the Music Café. Some of the rentals are official Sundance sponsors while others are by corporate interests desiring the spotlight of the festival.
The Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents businesses in the Main Street district, does not keep a list of the Sundance rentals, but the organization's executive director said last year's lineup worked well on Main Street. Alison Butz said the mix of Sundance rentals and year-round businesses was attractive in 2012.
Main Street leaders want the setups during Sundance open to anyone. Butz said it is difficult to encourage people to go to Main Street if there are numerous places that are not welcoming to regular people.
"We'd like to see as much (of) this open to the public as possible," Butz said.