Sundance Film Festival co-managing directors Sarah Pearce and Laurie Hopkins, photographed here during the opening day of this year s festival appeared
Sundance Film Festival co-managing directors Sarah Pearce and Laurie Hopkins, photographed here during the opening day of this year s festival appeared before the Park City Council Thursday to report on the event s robust economic impact numbers. Photo by Stephen Speckman

Sundance Film Festival co-managing directors Sarah Pearce and Laurie Hopkins, who do most of their work behind the scenes during the annual 10-day celebrity-filled event, stepped into the limelight at Thursday's Park City Council meeting. They had some good news to deliver.

According to an independent report, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival generated $86 million in economic impact in the state, significantly more than last year. That number includes $63.9 million in spending, up $7.2 million from last year, the creation of 1,434 festival-related jobs and an uptick in state and local tax revenues -- from $5.8 million in 2013 to $6.9 million in 2014.

Though the study, produced by The University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research, does not break out financial numbers for Park City and Summit County, the report concedes "While film screenings are offered at theaters in four geographic locations—Park City, Salt Lake City, Sundance Resort and Ogden—more films are shown in the Park City area than all other areas combined, and Park City is the hub of Festival-related events." According the report, 77 percent of all festival attendees (88 percent of nonresident attendees) watched most of their films in Park City theaters.

Hopkins attributed the lion's share of the economic impact growth to increases in lodging rates. In fact, the number of actual attendees was down slightly, from 46,000 in 2013 to 45,352 this year. The decrease though, she said, is not cause for concern. Over the last five years the festival has consistently drawn between 45,000 and 46,000 attendees.

"That's the sweet spot where we are filling our theaters. We are looking to sustain that and stay vital but it's not necessarily about growing it," Hopkins said in an interview prior to the city council meeting.

Hopkins clarified at a portion of this year's increase in economic impact was due to a change in methodology. In previous years, data was collected from the six months leading up to and including the festival. This year the reporting period was extended to 12 months, resulting in a one-time bump. In reality, Hopkins said, the festival organizer's expenses for items like staff, lodging, volunteers, venue rentals and catering take place throughout the year.

Hopkins and Pearce agreed there were no surprises and they were happy with the results.

"I was pleasantly surprised by the growth. We now know we have consistency'" Hopkins said.

Pearce added, "I am always happy to see the numbers go up. I especially liked this past festival it was amazing to have 10 straight days of sunshine. Everyone was happy.

Sundance attendee demographics

  • Nonresident attendees accounted for 69 percent of all festival attendees in 2014, or 31,482 visitors.
  • About one-third of festival attendees were Utah residents (13,870 or 31 percent).
  • The festival attracted an estimated 3,583 international visitors in 2014.
  • People from 29 countries traveled to Utah for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Visitors from Canada accounted for the single largest share of international visitors followed by Australia, France and Mexico.
  • The largest share of nonresident visitors were residents of the U.S, of those, about 63 percent were residents of three states: Utah, California and New York.
  • Of the estimated 31,482 nonresident festival attendees, approximately 8,814 people indicated it was their first visit to Utah, 29,593 people said they traveled to Utah specifically to attend the festival and 11,333 people indicated they would visit Utah again during the next year.
  • 17 percent of attendees identified themselves as entertainment industry professionals.

Sundance spending

  • During the festival, attendees spent a total of $63.9 million. Of this amount, nonresident spending totaled $59.2 million while Utah residents spent $4.6 million.
  • Total spending per person averaged $1,409.09.
  • Nonresidents spent a total of $1,883.13 per person during their stay and Utah residents spent an average of $333.13.
  • The weighted average daily spending by festival attendees was $235.64.
  • Nonresidents averaged $309.36 each day during their stay and Utah residents spent an average of $68.33 each day they attended the Festival.
  • Total spending per person for lodging averaged $740.31 and accounted for the largest spending by nonresidents. Total spending for meals averaged $302.63 followed by other miscellaneous retail purchases ($159.58) and recreation and entertainment ($99.99).
  • Nearly 30 percent of nonresident attendees said they intended to ski or snowboard in Utah during their stay.

Source: University of Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research