Club neighbors leery of Sundance |

Club neighbors leery of Sundance

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Jeff Lonn’s workday in the winter starts in the overnight hours — he arrives at The Canyons, where he makes the resort safe from avalanches, as early as 3:45 a.m.

Nighttime quiet is a necessity for Lonn.

But Lonn lives in a condominium near the Racquet Club, where Sundance Film Festival organizers operate a major screening room during the annual January festival. Lonn and his wife, Michele Dieterich, are displeased with Sundance and have approached City Hall for help, appearing at a Park City Council meeting recently, at the same time as Sundance officials.

The couple claims the Racquet Club is noisy during Sundance and floodlights are too bright. Dieterich says she gets little response from City Hall or Sundance. The police told her Sundance is allowed to operate the Racquet Club theater as they do, and film festival officials give her the runaround, Dieterich told Mayor Dana Williams and City Councilors on Thursday.

"The action of Sundance has been unbelievable for years," Dieterich said.

The complaints, about six weeks before Sundance 2008 starts, spotlights what has long been a tenuous relationship between regular Parkites, City Hall and Sundance.

The film festival is one of the most profitable stretches of the year for many businesses, and City Hall collects lots of taxes during Sundance. But some Parkites are leery of film-festival week, one of the busiest times of the year. Traffic is terrible, some restaurants and businesses shut down in favor of festival-related rentals and the police receive numerous complaints of drunkenness and late-night revelers.

The Racquet Club sits close to neighbors in Park Meadows and is one of the few Sundance venues situated in a neighborhood. It is among the newer Sundance screening rooms, with festival organizers expanding to meet an overwhelming demand for movie tickets. It debuted in 2005.

There was talk of ending Racquet Club screenings earlier, but the movie schedule has already been set for 2008, meaning, at the earliest, the redone times could be introduced in 2009.

Meanwhile, City Hall and Sundance are finalizing a package of less ambitious changes in the festival’s operations for 2008. Sundance is scheduled Jan. 17-27. Max Paap, who manages special events for Park City, says the most important change involving the Racquet Club is slightly moving the movie theater’s bus stop. It will be further away from the condominiums, Paap says.

The elected officials are scheduled to continue their discussions and hold a hearing on Thursday. They could cast a vote on the changes to the festival then.

A Sundance official who spoke at the earlier meeting outlined other changes, including prohibiting festival workers from using bullhorns.

Sarah Pearce, who manages Sundance’s operations, said she was "horrified" by the complaints and pledged the Racquet Club screening room would operate differently than before.

She said Sundance workers will ask the audience at the last screening of each day to be quiet when they leave since neighbors live close by. The request will also be made outside the Racquet Club, Pearce said.

There was brief talk about canceling the last film of each day at the Racquet Club, which officials indicated starts at about 8:30 p.m., but Pearce said the festival’s competition schedule requires the later screening.

City Councilwoman Candy Erickson, who lives in Park Meadows, remained worried about the last screening.

"Personally, I go to bed at 8:30," Erickson said.

Lonn, the neighbor who wakes up early, remains indignant, saying Sundance has grown to dominate Park City, but he contends many Parkites must continue their day-to-day activities during the festival. He tries wearing earplugs to sleep better during Sundance.

"I think they just need to start being considerate of neighbors," he says.

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