Main Street looks like a ‘trade show’
Intel normally does not have a gallery on Main Street showing off its latest technology and certainly there is not space for a permanent Volkswagen location on the cramped street.
But Park City has entered film-festival week and in 2006, seemingly more than in the past, huge businesses have set up on Main Street, adding even more commercialism to an event long criticized as attracting too much corporate involvement.
The Sundance Film Festival launched on Thursday night and, hours before Robert Redford offered his traditional remarks before the premier screening at the Eccles Center, the crews finishing the Main Street spaces.
The companies want the Main Street visibility during Sundance, when throngs of crowds arrive for movies, partying and celebrity gawking. They see Sundance as a great spot for marketing and are not concerned with the money spent on renting the space.
At Zona Rosa, normally a Mexican restaurant, it’s Intel inside from Jan. 20-29.
"It’s a lot of seed work and exposure and show and tell," said Ralph Bond, a spokesman for the computer-chip maker, noting that Intel has been a Sundance sponsor for three years.
The Intel space is mostly open to the public, with almost 20 Hewlett-Packard computers running Intel systems for playing games and accessing the Internet. Flat-screen televisions decorate the space, themed with blue area rugs and a blue bar.
"For general attendees and the press, it’s to show where the state-of-the-art is," Bond said.
He was unsure how much Intel spent on the space.
For years, Main Street restaurants especially cashed in when Sundance arrived, renting their space for private parties, but until recently, there was not as much interest on the street from the corporations.
They sometimes in the past rented big houses outside of downtown instead, invited people inside and showed off their products. But City Hall prefers that the corporate interests be on Main Street rather than in the neighborhoods, where huge parties sometimes upset the people living next door.
"Main Street is turning into a trade show," said Steve Hooker, who has sold commercial real estate on the street since 1985 and was once the head of the Main Street merchants. "It’s a film-festival trade show. It’s no different than having one in a convention center."
Hooker said he helped negotiate two deals on Main Street during Sundance, worth $45,000 and $50,000, and said he knows of another deal for $80,000. Five years ago, Main Street businesses were getting between $20,000 and $40,000 for Sundance rentals, he said.
"From a company’s point of view, it’s a marketing expense . . . It’s a very good expense," Hooker said. "Those guys do billions of dollars. They’re big companies."
Hooker explains that some regular Main Street businesses don’t see a big boost during Sundance and, instead, seek the guaranteed money that a rental brings.
"If I was a business owner, if you’re not selling products to the film-festival (crowd), your business is slow," Hooker said.
Starbucks is another mega-company renting temporary space on the street, occupying what is normally the Thomas K. McCarthey Gallery, an art gallery that specializes in Russian Impressionism.
Starbucks turned the gallery into a coffee shop, or what the company calls a ‘pop-up’ or temporary store. Just before noon on Thursday, the shop was bustling and a Starbucks worker was giving out samples of cinnamon dolce latte and cinnamon coffee cake.
Christy Salcido, a Starbucks spokesperson, said at the store that the company set up the temporary location for the exposure rather than the money it makes on selling coffee during the festival.
"We feel like we always celebrated the independent spirit," she said. "I think that we want to be in the epicenter of Sundance activity and want to be convenient to customers."
Volkswagen and Nintendo are two of the other companies that have rented space on Main Street for the festival. Meanwhile, in a deal that won the Park City Council’s consent in December, the Park City Historical Society rented space in its City Hall-owned Main Street museum to a firm representing Cadillac and Hollywood Life magazine.
At the Town Lift Plaza on lower Main Street, the big ‘Village at the Lift’ went up in the days before Sundance started. About 30,000 square feet of space is rented for the village, said Mike Sweeney, whose family has business interests at the plaza.
Sweeney said Sundance deals are a "once-a-year revenue source" and that an average deal would provide enough money for three or four months of rent on Main Street.
In 2005, Sweeney estimates, businesses from Heber Avenue north to the end of Main Street brought in a combined $250,000 in Sundance rentals. He noted that art galleries, for instance, do well with Sundance rentals.
"They make more money in 10 days leasing their space out than they could if they keep their staff on and are selling art," he said.
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