Sundance, amid broad review of festival future, seeks extension on renewal deadline with Park City

Organizers want a key 2024 date pushed back by months to allow more time to craft long-term vision

The Sundance Film Festival returned to Park City as an in-person event in January after two consecutive pandemic-forced cancellations of the live event. Sundance organizers and Park City leaders on Thursday are scheduled to discuss the future of the festival, which has long been the most lucrative event on Park City’s calendar.
Park Record file photo by David Jackson

The leadership of the Sundance Film Festival on Monday requested City Hall extend an upcoming spring deadline regarding a renewal of an agreement with the municipal government to hold the event in Park City after 2026, an indication the organizers of the top marketplace of independent films in the U.S. are undertaking a broad review of the event’s future.

The current agreement between Sundance and City Hall covers the festivals through 2026 after starting with the 2014 edition. There are automatic renewals annually starting in 2027 unless either of the sides provides a two-year written notice by March 1 of any year. Sundance has requested the March 1 deadline in 2024 be pushed back to Oct. 1 of that year.

In a two-page letter to Mayor Nann Worel and the Park City Council, Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente describes the delay to an Oct. 1 deadline would “enable Sundance to complete our strategic planning work and can come to the table with a new vision for the Festival and the Institute as a whole. It is at this point that we can partner with Park City and arrive at a new long standing Master Festival License with the City that is beneficial for both parties.”

The letter also says: “At this moment in time, Sundance is in a unique position, one it has not found itself in its history. We have new executive leadership, we have had several years of declining revenue triggered by a global pandemic that we have still not recovered from. There are many uncertainties but also great possibilities this moment presents.”

“Without the benefit of a unified vision and plan for Sundance’s future, planning for 2027 and beyond at this moment would be more of a hypothetical exercise that we believe will not arrive at an agreement that suits the needs of Park City or Sundance long term. This is in stark contrast to the partnership we have enjoyed for 40+ years. We do not wish to engage the staff and council in a process that will not yield a similarly strong long-term plan for both parties,” Vicente says in the letter.

The mayor and City Council are scheduled to discuss the request by Sundance at a meeting on Thursday. Forty-five minutes are set aside for the talk starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Marsac Building. A vote is not scheduled on Thursday, but the elected officials could provide preliminary comments about the possibility of an extension of the deadline.

Sundance returned to Park City in January with an in-person festival after two consecutive pandemic-forced cancellations of the live event. The festival lacked some of the commotion that marked the pre-pandemic era, but it drew large crowds nonetheless. The traffic overwhelmed Main Street, there were reports festival-goers spent at a solid clip and many screenings were jammed.

The festival is, by a wide margin, the most lucrative event on Park City’s calendar. The lodging, restaurant and transportation industries typically enjoy some of the best numbers of the year during Sundance, as the film industry, the entertainment media and celebrity gawkers descend on the community.

The 2024 edition of Sundance is scheduled to run from Jan. 18 until Jan. 28. Festival organizers and City Hall in coming months are expected to finalize the operational details of the plans for the 2024 event. 


Park City Mountain to improve snowmaking system for next ski season

New automated snowmaking infrastructure will be installed on Another World, and new automated snowguns will be installed on Chicane, representatives said. This will speed up the seasonal opening of Chicane and secure an opening date for Another World prior to the holiday season, they said. They are scheduled for installation next summer for the 2024/25 ski season. 

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