Sundance Film Festival generated record-setting $191.6 million
Those who visited the Sundance Film Festival in January truly left their mark.
The Sundance Institute, which hosts the Sundance Film Festival each year, recently announced the results of a study detailing the economic impact of the world-renowned festival. It generated a record-setting $191.6 million in state gross domestic product, a $40 million increase from last year’s $151.5 million, according to the study. The number of reported attendees also increased from 71,600 last year to 124,900.
Betsy Wallace, managing director and chief financial officer of the Sundance Institute, said that the jump is partly attributable to an increase in the amount of sensors placed around the festival to calculate the number of attendees. There were 14 sensors last year and 36 this year. The additional ones were installed near the sponsor locations, the merchandise stores and the box office.
The institute began using the sensors at theaters around Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Resort last year, when it commissioned Y2 Analytics to collect the data. Y2 Analytics also performed the data collection this year.
Wallace said that, with the sensors, the institute was better able to accurately count the number of people who attended one festival event or only visited the sponsors rather than going to a screening.
“We picked up a lot of Utahns who were coming up just for the day to buy a T-shirt or to spend the day going to dinner, walking up and down Main Street and looking at the sponsor locations,” she said. “Not everybody who comes here sees a movie.”
She said that including one-time visitors is important so the institute can make decisions such as how much merchandise to buy or how many buses are needed and what routes they should take.
But Wallace said that, even though the sensors more accurately counting people played a role in the numbers, there did appear to be a spike in visitation. Moving the New Frontier room off of Main Street and opening a new theater, The Ray, seemed to attract more guests to the festival. Out-of-town visitors stayed, on average, five days, which was also more than last year.
About 36 percent of the attendees — or 45,000 people — came from out of state. There were about 80,000 Utah attendees. Out-of-state visitors attending the festival spent about $156.8 million on lodging, transportation, meals and entertainment.
This year, there were simply more people spending more money at the film festival, Wallace said. In turn, there were more jobs. The festival helped create 3,323 jobs. Those who filled them earned more than $100 million, according to the report.
Sundance generated $19 million in state and local taxes, up from last year’s $14 million, according to the report.
Wallace said that the arts and culture sector is a driver for economic growth in the state.
“It is apparent that the Sundance Film Festival continues to have an expanding impact on Utah’s vibrant and diverse economy,” said Speaker of the Utah House Greg Hughes in a press release. “In addition to the obvious economic benefits, our ongoing collaboration with Sundance Institute highlights the exceptional cultural, recreational, tourism and business opportunities available here in Utah.”
Wallace said that the festival can sometimes be overwhelming to Park City residents, but the economic impact on the state and the region is beneficial.
“It is something to acknowledge and to help grow because it is something that makes this state wonderfully unique,” Wallace said.
She said that, even with the growth, the festival does not plan to open any additional theaters in Park City or Salt Lake City next year.
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