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Sundance increasing presence in Salt Lake City

By MATT JAMES ,Of the Record staff

On Friday, the Sundance Institute, organizer of the Sundance Film Festival, announced the creation of a new central "Festival District" in downtown Salt Lake City during the 2006 film festival. The Festival District will center Sundance’s operations along 300 South in downtown Salt Lake City. The Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and the Broadway Centre Cinemas, both on 300 South, will anchor the festival district, which will run between the two venues. For the 2006 film festival, the Rose Wagner Center will host two film screenings each evening, Monday through Friday, and a full schedule of screenings Saturday and Sunday. Broadway Center Cinemas will have a similar slate of programming. In addition to the screenings, the Rose Wagner Center will host the film festival’s Salt Lake City Gala on Friday, Jan. 20. According to Jill Miller, managing director of the Sundance Institute, the organization has not confirmed additional programming for the festival district other than the screenings and the gala. The primary purpose of the district, she said, is to increase the ease with which film-goers can see movies in Salt Lake City. "The focus on the festival district is really about centralizing the screenings we do into Salt Lake City’s downtown area," Miller said. The district will neither increase nor decrease the number of film festival screenings in Salt Lake City. "I like to call it an enhancement," Miller said. By placing the screenings in a central downtown location, viewers will be able to attend movies in different theaters without driving. And, Miller said, the creation of the Festival District will assist Salt Lake’s urban planning efforts. "It fits right in with Salt Lake City’s goals of reinvigorating the area," she said. Miller also noted that the Rose Wagner Center will provide a large, venue in Salt Lake City, which the film festival has lacked in recent years. "It’s a replacement for us for what we had two years ago at Trolley Corners," she said. When that large theater was closed, Sundance began showing films at Trolley Square, but those theaters could not provide the same seating capacity. In 2005, the film festival screened at Abravanel Hall, Broadway Center Cinemas, Trolley Square and the Tower Theatre. She said that the organization hopes that by improving access to Salt Lake City screenings some of the inevitable congestion that plagues Park City might be eased. Ultimately, though, Miller said the new festival district’s influence will probably be limited to Salt Lake City. "I really think that this isn’t going to affect the Park City experience," she said. Park City Mayor Dana Williams said he doubted the new district would affect what happens in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival. "I just think that Carmen Electra is on Main Street in Park City," he said. However, he noted that the festival district might attract some new viewers who might not otherwise want to compete with Park City’s crowds. "Hopefully what it will do is give people the opportunity to see Sundance screenings who might not want to deal with coming up here," he said. Miller emphasized that the programming in Salt Lake City would be similar to that in Park City, including question and answer sessions with filmmakers. The festival district, she noted, is part of the Sundance Institute’s yearly effort to improve the film festival experience. "The message is that you can come downtown and it’s really easy to see the screenings," she said. In addition to the screenings at the Rose Wagner Center and Broadway Center Cinemas, the film festival will also continue to show films at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, increasing the number of screenings at the venue from one per night to three. The main Sundance Film Festival box office in Salt Lake City will remain at Trolley Square, at 700 East 500 South.


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