Sundance sports new marquee on abandoned Park City building

Onetime Holiday Village store envisioned as a festival screening room

by Jay Hamburger
Sundance Film Festival organizers want to operate a 500-seat screening room and put some of the January events New Frontier programming in the Holiday Village building that once housed a Sports Authority store. The new venue would be seen as reducing some of the pressure on Main Street.
Jay Hamburger/Park Record

Sundance Film Festival organizers intend to occupy the Holiday Village building that once housed a sporting-goods store, adding what is designed to be an important new venue during the January event that is also seen as something that will reduce the pressure Sundance puts on Main Street.

The plans were made public in a City Hall report issued on Monday in anticipation of a Park City Council meeting on Thursday. Sundance organizers and City Hall officials annually craft modifications to the festival. The changes under consideration for the 2018 event are meant to create another festival hub stretching out from the corner of Park Avenue and Kearns Boulevard.

According to the report, Sundance wants to temporarily move into the building of a shuttered Sports Authority store in Holiday Village. Sundance would operate a screening room with 500 seats in part of the space and shift some of the New Frontier programming – virtual-reality and what is dubbed a microcinema — to the building’s lower level. The New Frontier programming previously was on or close to Main Street. Another part of the New Frontier programming – an art exhibition – would be moved from Old Town to the Kimball Art Center on Kearns Boulevard.

The moves to the former Sports Authority space and the Kimball Art Center would significantly boost Sundance’s presence in that vicinity. The new venues would operate within a short distance from the festival’s Holiday Village Cinema screening rooms and the Yarrow Hotel Theatre. The City Hall report indicates Sundance wants to negotiate a lease for the former Sports Authority space that covers five festivals with options for renewals. The report says Sundance would put upward of $2 million toward renovations of the space.

“This potential new venue would create a theatre district that allows Park City residents increased easy access to screenings and other aspects of the festival, such as our groundbreaking New Frontier experience and a new 500-seat theatre. The expansion would also disperse our programs more evenly throughout the city, creating opportunities for attendees to have a more robust interaction with the festival both on and off Main Street,” Betsy Wallace, the chief financial officer and managing director of the Sundance Institute, said in a prepared statement in response to a Park Record request for comment.

As a part of the package of festival alterations, Sundance does not request a street closure along lower Main Street nor a closure of 5th Street outside the Main Street post office like those in 2017. The closure of lower Main Street, which involved the entire festival as well as a short time before and afterward for setup and teardown, was especially controversial. Some businesses along lower Main Street said the closure resulted in a significant drop in sales as drivers were unable to get to the places and people who attended Sundance programs at what was dubbed the Festival Village generally stayed there instead of shopping and dining in the stores and restaurants just steps away.

The overall package of changes, if approved by the City Council, could somewhat temper the happenings along Main Street. The street would remain a central spot for the festival crowds, but it would not be put under the extra stress of a street closure and another busy Sundance venue.

The Historic Park City Alliance, which represents businesses on or close to Main Street, closely monitors City Hall’s negotiations with Sundance. Michael Barille, the executive director of the group, said Main Street will retain an important role during the festival even if the changes are approved. He noted some of the difficulties of the Sundance setup on Main Street in 2017, which were exacerbated by bad weather.

“Last year, combined with the weather, it made some challenging conditions,” he said. “A little less pressure focused on those couple blocks is probably a good thing.”

The City Council is scheduled to discuss and possibly vote on the package of changes to the festival at a meeting on Thursday. Public input is planned. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Marsac Building.

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