Sundance building deals, a normally lucrative market in Park City, slow amid fest uncertainty |

Sundance building deals, a normally lucrative market in Park City, slow amid fest uncertainty

Workers move furniture out of a Main Street store just before the opening of the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, making room for a temporary corporate setup. The market for temporary rentals on Main Street for Sundance in 2021 is slow as the corporate interests await clarity regarding the event.
Park Record file photo

A favorite restaurant on Main Street may be open to regular customers during the last third of January in 2021.

And a storefront or gallery on the shopping, dining and entertainment strip may be selling its usual goods at that time.

In any other year, many of the places along Main Street would be transformed during the Sundance Film Festival into corporate setups of some sort. But with the festival six months from opening and with organizers recently outlining a radically altered concept to account for the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, the market for short-term rentals on Main Street is muted at a time when there could normally be numerous deals under negotiation or already finalized.

Short-term Main Street storefront rentals during Sundance have long been a side business for property owners seeing an opportunity to earn a return on a building during a stretch when regular customers tend to avoid the crowds, traffic and parking restrictions in the Main Street core.

Main Street is essentially transformed in the days before Sundance opens as corporate interests temporarily rebuild the interior of a rented space, launch the setup and then dismantle it days later. The corporations see the setups as a key marketing opportunity with celebrities stopping in, the world entertainment press in Park City and a well-heeled crowd on Main Street. The corporate presence is especially heavy during the jammed opening weekend of Sundance.

But there are numerous unknowns at a time when the corporate interests would already be heavy into the planning of Main Street locations. The state of the efforts to combat the sickness by January is the most important unknown as corporate interests consider what sort of returns they could reap on an investment in a Main Street setup in 2021. There are also questions about the health of the world economy, another important point as the corporate interests consider their Sundance budget.

Sundance organizers recently outlined a concept for the 2021 festival calling for a base in Park City with venues across the U.S. The details have not been finalized. The organizers are continuing to consider options for the venue map in Park City, screening schedules and other crucial logistical issues.

The market for Main Street rentals, it seems, may not see significant movement until Sundance provides greater clarity about the role Park City will play in January. Building owners desiring to reach deals with corporate interests may need to wait at least several months longer than is usual.

“There’s no certainty, at all, at this stage,” said Park City businessman Mike Sweeney, who has long been one of the figures who negotiates on behalf of building owners as well as the corporate interests.

The Sweeney family controls the Town Lift Plaza, offering one of the larger Main Street spaces for a festival rental, and Sweeney himself has negotiated numerous deals over the years for third parties.

Sweeney said he has yet to negotiate a deal along Main Street during the festival in 2021. He is also not currently in talks regarding one. By the middle of July in a typical year, there would normally be corporate interests searching for space on Main Street and discussions underway about deals, he said.

“What it tells me is nobody knows what is going to happen,” Sweeney said.

He predicted there is a possibility the market for Sundance rentals could weaken. He also anticipates the agreements that are struck will be finalized later than normal.

“They’re all going to be last-minute deals,” he said, describing that it could be around Thanksgiving, or later, before they are signed.

In previous years, according to Sweeney, agreements were valued at as low as approximately $25,000 for a small space for a short period of time and as a high as upward of $250,000 for a larger space for the entire festival. He said the deals can be important to a business or a building owner, estimating that a Sundance rental could provide enough funds for a business to cover up to six months of lease payments. That sort of infusion is crucial to some businesses as sales drop in the spring shoulder season that starts several months after Sundance.

“A lot of that could be lost,” he said about the monies spent on building rentals. “The revenue stream for the street will be significantly less.”


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