Park City approves scaled-back Sundance plans |

Park City approves scaled-back Sundance plans

Park City officials have approved a scaled-back plan for the Sundance Film Festival in 2021, including a shortened event and a change in the dates. The approval allows City Hall, Sundance and others like the lodging and restaurant industries to begin to prepare in earnest for the festival.
Park Record file photo

The spotlight will be on Park City in late January as the Sundance Film Festival starts, but it appears it will not be shining as bright as it normally would.

The Park City Council on Tuesday approved a one-time set of changes to Sundance for the 2021 edition as festival organizers prepare for a scaled-back event designed for an era of social distancing as it is expected the spread of the novel coronavirus by then will not have been halted.

The elected officials agreed to a shorter event and different dates than were planned. The event is scheduled to run seven days from Jan. 28 until Feb. 3 under the changes that were approved on Tuesday. Sundance had been scheduled for 11 days from Jan. 21 until Jan. 31. The date change creates distance between Sundance and the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. There was concern about the possibility of a demonstration in Park City that could draw large crowds if there were an overlap between Sundance and the swearing-in ceremony.

The City Council allowed Sundance to tap the Park City Library as a venue, the only City Hall-owned property organizers have requested to use to this point. The library has long been the location of a screening room. Sundance normally uses a variety of City Hall venues.

The elected officials, meanwhile, reduced the transportation services Sundance would usually be required to provide. Sundance will not need to fund transit services.

The City Council also agreed to suspend for one year the requirement that Sundance stage 70% of the festival in Park City and surrounding Summit County. The suspension of the 70% requirement allows Sundance to move forward with a concept that spreads screenings to theaters across the U.S. and in Mexico City.

The approval by the City Council was an important step as Sundance readies for a radically altered event and one that is not expected to attract crowds like before. Theater capacity is expected to drop by 75% and the number of venues is expected to be greatly reduced.

Sundance officials appeared at the virtual City Council meeting, explaining that health and safety must be protected and there are plans for seating in a socially distanced manner. Betsy Wallace, the chief financial officer and managing director of Sundance, acknowledged the organization expects it will be a “tough year” for the festival.

The elected officials inquired about the plans along Main Street, where lots of Sundance activities usually happen alongside a heavy corporate presence. Jenny Diersen, the economic development program manager for City Hall, indicated less activity is expected in the Main Street core and planning for the street continues.

Nobody from the public provided input prior to the City Council vote.

The City Council decision was important as some of the key unknowns regarding Sundance, such as the dates and the length of the festival, were decided after a period of uncertainty. City Hall and Sundance are now able to press ahead with the detailed planning. Others, such as the lodging and restaurant industries, also have the details needed to prepare their own plans for Sundance, such as for bookings or for corporate rentals.

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