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Sundance nudged for tickets

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Sundance Film Festival organizers, as they were awarded more than $50,000 in taxpayer money from the Summit County Commission, were nudged to make more festival tickets available to people who live in the county.

The statement from a county committee that recommends recreation, arts and parks grants illustrates the frustration of lots of people who live in the Park City area who each year are unable to score the tickets they want to the annual festival.

In recommending a $53,125 grant to Sundance, the committee noted that it "encourages the Sundance Institute to increase the number of film viewing options for locals during the Film Festival." It said more local tickets would meet the committee’s goal to make Summit County a better place to live.

The institute had requested $100,000. Tom Fey, the chairman of the cultural side of the committee, says there was not enough money to grant Sundance all the money the institute requested.

Fey, however, acknowledges that the committee wants Sundance to make more tickets available to people who live in Summit County, where most of the festival’s screenings are held.

"We’re saying if you can figure out how to do it, make more discounted tickets available to locals," Fey says, explaining that he considers the local-only tickets as those that are sold to Utahns but adding he prefers that additional tickets be sold in Summit County.

Fey, who says he saw 15 movies during the 2006 film festival, says he hears a "fair amount" of complaints that people in Summit County are unable to get tickets.

Sundance tickets each year are prized commodities and even though Utahns are allowed to purchase tickets before national sales start, there are usually widespread complaints that lots of sought-after movies quickly sell out during the Utah-only sales.

"If you’re lucky, when your time comes up, you’re able to buy some tickets," Fey says.

Through the grant, Sundance is not obligated to increase the number of locals-only tickets but the committee’s statement is at least the second time in two years that a government panel has publicly questioned the ticketing.

In early 2005, after local Sundance fans complained that there were few tickets available during Utah-only sales for that January’s festival, some on the Park City Council wanted data and an explanation of the procedures. Sundance officials at the time indicated technical snafus with a new ticketing system caused the shortage.

Sundance is scheduled to sell Utah-only tickets on Jan. 6-7 and national sales will start the following week. Utahns wanting to purchase during the early dates must register on Sundance’s World Wide Web site by Dec. 29. Locally, people can register in person on Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the ticket office at the Gateway Center in Old Town. People can also register by phone, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until Dec. 29. The number is (435) 776-7878.

Sundance is seen as the nation’s top marketplace of independent films and boasts a list of blockbusters that premiered at the festival. The 2007 festival is scheduled Jan. 18-28.

The festival has boomed in the last decade, bringing more people to Park City and making tickets scarce, especially those to the star-studded premiers. Sundance organizers have added screening rooms in response to the ticket crush, including at the Racquet Club gymnasium and at Redstone 8 Cinemas, which will debut in 2007 as a Sundance venue.

Patrick Hubley, the institute’s spokesman, says Sundance provides numerous chances for people in Summit County to get tickets. They include Utah-only packages, which go on sale in October, and the early ticket sales.

He says, in 2007, Sundance plans to debut a new system in Summit County for the Utah-only sales. Only people who live in Summit County or a few zip codes in Wasatch County will be eligible to purchase tickets Jan. 6-7 at the box office at the Gateway Center in Old Town, Hubley says.

Hubley touts other local chances to see Sundance films, such as a documentary film series at the Park City Library and Education Center, outdoor showings at City Park in the summer and ‘Best of Fest’ screenings at the Eccles Center the day after the festival ends.


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