Business during Sundance drops |

Business during Sundance drops


The Sundance Film Festival’s impact on the state economy in 2013 dropped from the year before, festival organizers said on Wednesday, falling to the lowest level since 2010.

The January festival had an economic impact of $69.5 million, meaning Utah’s gross state product was increased by that figure as a result of Sundance. The number, though, was down sharply from the $80.3 million in 2012, a drop of 13.4 percent. The $69.5 million was the lowest since the $62.7 million tally in 2010, when the recession continued to depress the numbers.

Sundance, though, remains the most lucrative special event on Park City’s calendar, bringing big crowds and long lines at businesses. There were not widespread complaints about sales during the festival, but there was anecdotal evidence that the numbers were not going to be blockbuster by the time Sundance ended.

Sarah Pearce, a Park City-based co-managing director of the Sundance Institute, said on Wednesday the city was busy during the festival nonetheless, saying that Main Street and restaurants were hopping. She said organizers met both the festival and the institute budgets during the last fiscal year.

She said the impact on the economy spreads through a wide range of sectors, including lodging properties, restaurants, shops and caterers.

The report, generated by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research and based on 578 surveys, does not tally some spending, such as temporary commercial rentals and events not put on by Sundance. Pearce said those could total millions of more dollars. They were not included in past reports, either.

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Sundance uses revenues it brings in during the festival to fund the operations in January as well as year-round institute programs, including those meant for the community.

Over five years, the festival has generated more than $375.6 million in economic activity, Sundance said in a release outlining the 2013 numbers. In the past decade, the release said, more than $500 million in economic activity can be attributed to the festival.

"The more than $375 million in economic value that the Sundance Film Festival has brought to the state of Utah over the past five years demonstrates how the arts can support a local economy in a big way," Laurie Hopkins, the other co-managing director of the Sundance Institute, said in a prepared statement.

The numbers released by Sundance reflect the statewide impact. Park City is the hub during the festival, and a large percentage of the economic activity occurs in Park City and the Snyderville Basin. Pearce said numbers were not generated showing the specific figures for the Park City area.

The drop in the economic impact — a broad measure of the money put into the economy — is reflected in some of the detailed numbers released by Sundance on Wednesday. The attendance this year, 45,947, was down slightly from the more than 46,000 in 2012. The number of jobs that were supported by the festival was 1,407 this year, down nearly 19 percent from the 1,731 in 2012.

Spending by people at the festival accounted for most of the overall economic impact. The attendees spent $56.7 million. Spending categories included:

  • $24.2 million on lodging
  • $16 million on food and beverage
  • $3.1 million on auto rentals
  • $1.4 million on other transportation
  • $4.3 million on recreation
  • $7.6 million on other retail purchases

    Sundance said the festival generated $5.8 million in state and local taxes, a tally that does not include airport taxes. The impact on earnings was $34.6 million.

    Much of the festival revelry occurs on Main Street, where corporate interests rent space and crowds gather for dining and entertainment. The executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, which represents the interests of businesses on or close to the street, said Main Street enjoyed solid business in January. Alison Butz said she conducted an informal survey after the festival and found that the numbers were up from 2012.

    "Seventy million can still show a positive impact on Main Street," Butz said.

    Other details released by Sundance include:

  • people from outside of Utah made up 65 percent of the festival attendees, similar to the past four years. Of the Utah residents at the festival, a little more than half live in Salt Lake County while 22 percent live in Summit County.
  • people who said they work in the entertainment industry accounted for 16.2 percent of the attendees.
  • per person total spending was $1,234.60 on average. People from outside of Utah spent an average of $1,734.85 while in the state while Utah residents spent $287.61 on average.
  • nearly 40 percent of the people from outside of Utah indicated they planned to ski or snowboard while they were in the state for Sundance.
  • between Jan. 15 and Feb. 15, there were 11,900 broadcast stories generated by the film festival, accounting for $25.5 million in publicity