Sundance screenings will run later into the night at recreation center | ParkRecord.com

Sundance screenings will run later into the night at recreation center

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Sundance Film Festival organizers on Thursday night received the necessary approval to push back the starting time of the last movie shown at the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center, a schedule that the organizers say will allow the screening room to operate more efficiently.

The final movie of the day will be permitted to start at 8:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. The Park City Council unanimously approved the change.

Sarah Pearce, who directs the festival’s operations, said afterward the later starting time will result in a "calm transition between screenings." She said a screening room will usually be closed down for the evening within 2 1/2 hours of the start of the final movie of the day, depending on the length of the film. If that is the case, the screening room inside the Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center gymnasium should be closed down by about 11 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m. previously.

In comments to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council, Sundance officials described operational changes at the Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center meant to lessen impacts on the neighborhood. The site has been one of Sundance’s trickiest to manage since the facility sits in a residential area steps from where people live.

The Sundance officials said they do not plan to put up a large tent, used for the wait-list ticket line, in the parking lot in 2012. The wait-list line instead will be put on the indoor tennis courts. That could cut down the amount of crowd noise outside, the elected officials were told. People will also wait for buses on the tennis courts, further cutting noise in the neighborhood.

A Sundance-authored outline of the operations submitted to the elected officials indicated the organizers will attempt to schedule shorter movies in the 8:30 p.m. time slot. Sundance staffers manning the theater will tell the audience before and after the last screening of each day to keep their voices down when they leave.

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One longtime critic of Sundance’s arrangements at the Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center spoke to the mayor and City Council on Thursday night, saying that moving the wait-list line will cut down the disturbances. Michelle Dietrich, though, said she prefers the 8 p.m. starting time over the 8:30 p.m. starts that were approved on Thursday. Dietrich, who lives close to the facility, said it is difficult for her and her husband to sleep during Sundance.

"That’s a lot of noise late at night," Dietrich said.

Nobody else from the public testified.

The City Council did not spend extensive time discussing the later screening schedule before casting the vote. City Councilwoman Liza Simpson said people who live in Park City need to be flexible during Sundance. The mayor said festival organizers have worked with the neighborhood surrounding the Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center.

The screening room at the Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center is the second largest of the Park City-area theaters, trailing only the Eccles Center. It seated 602 people when the Racquet Club was standing. The screening room will return to Sundance’s lineup in 2012 after a one-year absence as the Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center was built at the site of the Racquet Club.

The City Council in the same vote approved Sundance’s request to move the New Frontier setup from Miners Hospital to The Yard on Kearns Boulevard.

The 2012 festival is scheduled Jan. 19-29. Festival organizers typically approach City Hall each year in the months ahead of the festival to tweak the operations.