A Hollywood comeback: Sundance pumped $70 million-plus into the economy | ParkRecord.com

A Hollywood comeback: Sundance pumped $70 million-plus into the economy

The Sundance Film Festival in January, in what was considered by many hoteliers, restaurateurs and merchants to be a comeback year, generated $70.8 million in economic impact, up from 2010 but still down sharply from two years ago, a report released this week shows.

Festival organizers said they are pleased with the numbers in the annual report, issued by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research on behalf of Sundance. The $70.8 million in economic impact rose from the $62.7 million tallied in 2010 but remained down from the 2009 figure, which sat at $92.2 million. Economic impact broadly measures the money put into the economy through the festival.

"We’ve been incredibly lucky that we’ve been able to remain strong even through the recession," said Jill Miller, the managing director of the Sundance Institute and the top-ranking Utah-based Sundance staffer.

There was anecdotal evidence during the festival that business was up across a variety of sectors, with people at restaurants and hotels indicating they were doing well while Sundance was unfolding. Some stores also reported having a strong Sundance as well.

Festival-related spending, a major part of the overall economic impact, hit $58.6 million, with lodging and meals accounting for the bulk of the money that was spent in January. The report indicates spending rose between 2011 and 2010 in five of the six categories that are tracked. Spending on recreation was the only one that fell. People from outside of Utah spent most of the money, a total of $54.4 million.

"It seemed great. We did very, very well — sold out every night," said Kevin Valaika, the co-owner of the Shabu restaurant on Main Street and the chairman of the Park City Area Restaurant Association. "I was sold out from five o’clock until 11 or 12 o’clock every night."

Valaika said the customers during Sundance were spending big money at the restaurant. He said sales of high-end alcohol were of note.

"People were enjoying the nicer wines and sakes. Two years ago, that wasn’t really happening," he said.

Some of the details from the report include:

  • Attendance is estimated at 45,797, up 11 percent from the previous year. Approximately one-third of the people who were at the festival were from Utah. Meanwhile, approximately 9 percent of the people at the festival were from outside the U.S.
  • Nearly half of the people who attended the festival were between 19 and 35 years old. Another 33 percent were between 36 and 55 years old while nearly 18 percent were older than 55.
  • More than four out of every 10 people at the festival had a household income of at least $100,000. One of five had a household income of less than $35,000.
  • Six out of every 10 people from outside of Utah either said they would not ski or snowboard during the festival or they were uncertain whether they would. The others said they planned to ski or snowboard while attending Sundance.
  • The festival was responsible for generating nearly $5.9 million in state and local tax revenues, up slightly from the year before.
  • The festival supported 1,605 jobs, up from 1,513 in 2010.

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