Sundance rays increasingly shine off Main Street
January 17, 2018
The glow of the Sundance Film Festival emanates most brightly from Main Street, but the festival's rays increasingly shine beyond the shopping, dining and entertainment strip that has been so popular over the years of the festival.
The 2018 edition of Sundance, it appears, will put a spotlight on an area well off Main Street – the Kearns Boulevard corridor. There have been Sundance venues along Kearns Boulevard or just off the street for decades, culminating this year with the addition of a major new festival location called The Ray. It will be located in a building that once housed a sporting-goods store and have one of the festival's largest screening rooms as well space for cutting-edge New Frontier offerings.
The Ray will essentially serve as the western bookend to Sundance's footprint along Kearns Boulevard, a state highway that serves as a significant artery linking Park City to parts of the Snyderville Basin, the East Side of Summit County and Wasatch County. The eastern bookend will be the Eccles Center, the festival's largest screening room and the location where many of the biggest premieres are shown.
Other important locations on Kearns Boulevard itself or just off the street include the Holiday Village screens, the Park Avenue Theatre, festival headquarters and the Prospector Square Theatre. The MARC Theatre is nearby as well. City Hall and Sundance bus routes run along the corridor, and it is an easy walk between the eastern and western ends.
The concentration of venues over time has turned the section of Kearns Boulevard between the Park Avenue intersection and the Eccles Center into a critical strip for Sundance. The screening rooms and other venues like the one that houses the New Frontier programming represent a significant part of the overall Sundance program. The festival headquarters buzz as well. The Kearns Boulevard corridor during Sundance has effectively been shifted from a utilitarian role with parking lots and restaurants generally less expensive than those on Main Street to a starring one.
Festival organizers envisioned that would be the case in 2018. As Sundance officials and City Hall leaders last summer crafted a plan for festival operations, they saw The Ray as perhaps the most important part of a package of changes for 2018. Sundance told City Hall the space where a Sports Authority store once was located offered an intriguing opportunity for the festival. A Sundance submittal to City Hall described the possibility to create a "mini Theater District for the Festival." It also noted that a theater district during Sundance could enhance the municipal government's own plans to create an arts and culture district in nearby Bonanza Park.
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The submittal indicated Sundance reached an agreement with the property owner of the former Sports Authority space involving an initial five-year term with two five-year options. The work to create The Ray required "a substantial investment" by Sundance organizers, according to the submittal.
It also outlined the benefits of the location along the Kearns Boulevard corridor, noting the proximity to other Sundance venues as well as a well-used bus stop on Park Avenue outside Fresh Market. It said the concentration of venues could cut traffic.
The Ray will likely lead to larger crowds walking along Kearns Boulevard as they move between the venues. There are a number of businesses on Kearns Boulevard that could benefit, most notably restaurants and perhaps a coffee kiosk as the crowds arrive for Sundance.
The Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive is one of the businesses that The Ray crowds could boost. The Kearns Boulevard establishment is roughly midway between the Sundance venues. Ronnie Wedig, the operations manager for The Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive, said he anticipates more people will walk by the restaurant, drive by or board a bus nearby during Sundance than would have been expected to if The Ray had not been added to the slate.
"More exposure," Wedig said. "More exposure, more business."
He said there is easier access to the Kearns Boulevard corridor, even during Sundance, than there is to Main Street and said traffic normally flows easier. Wedig also said the Sundance venues fit well into the vision of an arts and culture district like the one City Hall wants to create in Bonanza Park.
"We want to get the exposure of this area. . . . We can get great revenue throughout the whole year," Wedig said. "And Sundance helps us do that."