Sundance 2021 brings no movie stars, film moguls or corporate bigwigs to fill hotels |

Sundance 2021 brings no movie stars, film moguls or corporate bigwigs to fill hotels

Some lodging properties could suffer a 50% hit as the film festival moves online

Banners for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival are displayed on Main Street Monday, January 4, 2021. This year's festival will be held largely online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Movie stars, film moguls and corporate bigwigs will not be checking in at Park City’s hotels next week for the Sundance Film Festival.

Hotel occupancy in the Park City area during Sundance is projected to drop dramatically from a typical year as organizers shift the event online. There will not be a live venue in Park City amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.

Sundance would have started on Thursday under normal circumstances, meaning the community would have been jammed this weekend for the opening days of the festival. The organizers shifted the dates, though, and the event will open on Jan. 28. Sundance in late December eliminated The Ray theater at Holiday Village, the only live venue that was planned in Park City. Without Sundance activities, the lodging industry will rely on skier tourism at a time when there could be a lull in the season between the Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day holidays.

The immediate past president of the Park City Area Lodging Association, Danny Williams, this week said “occupancy levels are nowhere close to Sundance” at traditional hotels.

He projected the occupancy during the festival in 2021 could drop between 45% and 50% from Sundance in 2020.

Williams said midscale and upscale hotels will suffer the worst without the Sundance crowds.

Lodging usually enjoys an especially large bump during Sundance with occupancy levels and rates typically some of the highest of the year. Nearly $63.4 million was spent on lodging during the 2020 event, according to an annual economic report conducted on behalf of Sundance. Lodging was, by a wide margin, the largest category of spending, the report showed.

The lodging numbers are also important to other sectors. People staying in Park City during Sundance usually spend money on meals, transportation, recreation and entertainment. The Sundance report indicated people from outside of Utah spent an average of $605 per day while in the state for the festival in 2020. Less than half of the daily spending was on lodging, according to the report, highlighting the breadth of the economic impact.

“All the way from ski rental companies to the restaurants and bars,” Williams said as he described the broad effects of a drop in lodging numbers.

An important reading on lodging numbers from the Park City Chamber/Bureau was expected to be released Friday. The Chamber/Bureau projections will compile data from a range of traditional lodging options like economy hotels, luxury hotels and short-term vacation rentals. Earlier forecasts provided by the Chamber/Bureau showed occupancy levels cratering during the Sundance period on a year-over-year basis.

There was hope Park City could attract skiers during the days Sundance would have been unfolding, but the continued spread of the sickness and the meager snow totals through the middle of January have made the task more difficult. Many skiers and snowboarders are believed to schedule trips to Park City around the Sundance dates to avoid the rate increases in lodging, traffic and other festival inconveniences.

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