Park City celebrates decades-long relationship with Sundance and Slamdance |

Park City celebrates decades-long relationship with Sundance and Slamdance

Nan Chalat NoakerIn many ways Park City and the Sundance Film Festival have grown up together. Thirty years ago, when Robert Redford began tinkering with the notion of establishing an incubator for independent filmmaking, the Silver Wheel Theatre on Main

At the time, neither the city nor Redford could have foretold the future — that Park City would one day become a world-renowned resort town, the Sundance Institute would create a globally respected film festival and the damsel-in-distress, pencil-mustachioed villain and handsome hero would soon be replaced by cutting-edge film premieres on the Egyptian’s silver screen.

Throughout the intervening decades, the partnership has flourished, with each entity enhancing the reputation of the other. In 1985, 24 films were screened, tickets were $4 each, packages of 10 were sold for $30 and patrons could become official festival sponsors for $250. This year the slate has grown to 118 feature-length films and 66 shorts. Tickets are $20 each, packages start at $400 and the festival’s presenting sponsors come from the corporate world including, this year, HP, Acura, The Sundance Channel and Chase Sapphire.

But ensuring the burgeoning event and the busy ski town continue to complement each other has been a work in progress. This year Park City and the Sundance Institute crafted a new plan intended to cement the relationship through 2026. The agreement, reached at a Park City Council meeting in September, was greeted with handshakes and well deserved cheers.

Not to be overlooked, the Slamdance Film Festival, established by a pair of filmmakers whose work was rejected by Sundance, has surprised even its founders by its longevity. Slamdance is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and continues to serve as a more accessible sidebar to its famous cohort. Once dismissed by film critics and industry professionals, Slamdance titles are now regularly reviewed by the mainstream press and sometimes land on the corner marquee.

While January may be considered a post-holiday doldrums in other parts of the county, in Park City it is the high season for all that is new and exciting in the world of independent film.