Family-friendly film fest downsizes to Park City Library | ParkRecord.com

Family-friendly film fest downsizes to Park City Library

Event did not come close to filling the Eccles Center in 2016

A Park City film festival that bills itself as a showcase for family-friendly works and was held for the first time in 2016 plans to return this year, but organizers have shifted the event to a much smaller location after not drawing the anticipated crowds last year.

The Park City International Film Festival in 2016 staged the event at the spacious Eccles Center, by a wide margin the largest place in the city for a screening room. The festival in 2017 plans to show films in the Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library. The event is scheduled June 15-17.

The difference in capacity between the two venues is dramatic. The Eccles Center seats nearly 1,300 people while the Santy Auditorium holds in the 400s for film screenings, depending on the setup. The Sundance Film Festival uses both of the spaces as screening rooms, listing the Eccles Center as having a capacity of 1,270 and the Santy Auditorium as having a capacity of 486. The capacity numbers likely would differ slightly between Sundance and the Park City International Film Festival based on the individual needs of the festivals.

Warren Workman, the operations manager for the Park City International Film Festival, said attendance in 2016 did not approach the numbers organizers anticipated, leading to the change in venues. He said approximately 1,000 people attended last year. In the months prior to the event, the organizers had indicated they hoped for between 50,000 and 60,000 in the inaugural year. A sellout of the Eccles Center for opening night was possible, they said prior to the festival. Workman in 2016, prior to the festival, said the Eccles Center setting was "awesome and it also is kind of intimidating," describing that film festivals in their debut years typically "struggle to get audiences to show up."

Crowds of up to 60,000 would have put the Park City International Film Festival ahead of Sundance, which draws in the 40,000s as one of the world's top marketplaces of independent films. The Eccles Center hosts many of the star-studded world premieres during Sundance.

"We're scaling it down quite a bit," Workman said, acknowledging organizers did not reach the attendance goals in 2016. "It wasn't filling the Eccles . . . We didn't get close to that."

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Workman said the Park City International Film Festival wants to match the attendance figures in 2016 this year in a slightly shorter event.

The Santy Auditorium has a long history of film screenings. It has been a Sundance venue for years and the Park City Film Series, with its popular calendar of independent movies and documentaries, is based at the Santy Auditorium. Workman said the Santy Auditorium is an attractive venue for a film festival, citing well-regarded projection and sound systems.

He said the Santy Auditorium location will also allow the event to offer free screenings during daytime hours. A price has not been set, though, for nighttime screenings. Tickets were $10 or $20 per screening in 2016 at the Eccles Center, he said. Workman said organizers needed to charge for all the screenings in 2016 to ensure the event broke even financially based on the rental of the Eccles Center.

The event plans to screen between 10 and 15 films in 2017, a combination of narratives and documentaries. The films will have family-friendly themes. Workman hopes the film festival will offer an outreach program involving the youth programs at the library. He said the lineup of films is anticipated to be announced on May 13. They will screen in categories of documentary features, documentary shorts, narrative features and narrative shorts.

The Park City Film Series in June will be amid an annual summertime hiatus and is not partnering with the Park City International Film Festival. The executive director of the not-for-profit organization, Katharine Wang, though, touted the Santy Auditorium as a fine screening room. It offers a surround-sound system by Dolby, a digital-cinema projection system and a screen that was installed during a 2014-2015 renovation of the building.

Wang said the Santy Auditorium, called the Library Center Theatre by Sundance, is popular with filmmakers whose works are screened there during the festival. She said it is an "intimate venue" but large enough for a crowd.

"It still has the intimacy people are used to," she said, adding, "You can really feel immersed in the film."