Sundance 2019 dipped slightly but still brought in $182.5 million and more than 120K attendees |

Sundance 2019 dipped slightly but still brought in $182.5 million and more than 120K attendees

Sundance Film Festival returns Jan. 23.
Park Record file photo

The Sundance Institute on Wednesday released the results of a study confirming what Parkites already knew: A lot of people came to town for the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

The study pegged the number of attendees for the festival at 122,313. While that figure was a modest decrease from the 124,900 counted at the 2018 edition, it illustrates the sheer scope of Sundance, perhaps the starring entry in Park City’s packed annual calendar of events.

Betsy Wallace, managing director of the Sundance Institute, said the number reflects not only filmgoers and industry professionals but those who partook in other events during the 11 days of Sundance festivities.

“We were able to count people who came up to enjoy the day, to enjoy two days of the festival, that maybe didn’t go see a movie but were very much into panels or very much into music or wanted to see and understand our sponsors,” she said.

Also slightly down from 2018 was the festival’s statewide economic impact. The study, conducted by Salt Lake City-based research firm Y2 Analytics, tallied that figure at $182.5 million compared to $191.6 million the previous year. The 2019 festival accounted for roughly $18.6 million in state and local taxes and generated 3,052 jobs.

Wallace attributed the slight decreases in attendance and economic impact to the festival being held later than usual in accordance with an agreement with Park City that prevents the festival from overlapping with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, a prime period for ski tourism. That meant the last weekend coincided with the first three days of the FIS World Championships and left the festival’s closing day to compete with the Super Bowl.

Still, organizers were pleased with the overall figures.

“It reemphasizes that the festival is a great driver of economic impact for the state of Utah,” Wallace said.

According to the report, 64 percent of attendees were from Utah, which was in line with previous years. Californians, perhaps unsurprisingly, made up the largest group of non-Utah residents attending. Sundance-goers from within the state spent an average of $352 over the course of the festival, while the spending of non-residents reached $3,410, mostly on lodging, meals and entertainment.

People aged 25 to 35 made up the largest age group of attendees at 28.9 percent. Wallace said the organization was excited at that figure because of the festival’s recent efforts to appeal to millennials, such as Sundance Ignite, a program aimed at the 18-to-25 age demographic.

Wallace said another encouraging data point was the percent of attendees who said they either definitely or probably planned to return to Sundance in 2020: 92.8. That figure has remained high in recent years as the Sundance Institute has worked with Utah’s tourism arm to promote the festival and with officials in Park City and Summit County to ensure attendees have a positive experience, she said.

Returners made up 63 percent of festival attendees in 2019, according to the study.

“I think when people get here, they see clearly how beautiful it is, and we had a lucky little bit of snow and that probably helped, too,” she said. “It’s a full picture.”

This was the third time Y2 Analytics has conducted the annual study. Sundance officials have said the firm’s methodology captures a fuller picture than earlier studies. Having access to more accurate numbers is critical as organizers plan for future festivals with an eye on making the operations run as smoothly as possible, Wallace said.

“What it allows us to do is get a better sense of the size of the festival and how to manage it a little bit more consistently from all different aspects,” she said. “So I think it’s really important to have those kinds of numbers and be honest about them.”

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