Sundance spending sank
Spending during January’s Sundance Film Festival sank from the year before, festival organizers reported on Thursday, confirming what many businesspeople in Park City had anticipated six months after what was seen as a mediocre festival for cash registers.
According to festival organizers, the economic impact of the festival this year was $62.7 million, down sharply from the $92.2 million reported after Sundance’s 2009 edition. Attendance ticked upward slightly in 2010, to 41,221, but the number of jobs that the festival supported fell from 1,968 to 1,513.
The lodging industry’s numbers were particularly hit hard in 2010, with Sundance saying just less than $25 million was spent on accommodations. The year before the figure sat at $34.6 million. Spending on meals also fell substantially, to $10.6 million.
Brooks Addicott, the chief Sundance spokesperson, acknowledged the tough economy in which the festival was held as she praised the numbers.
The figures do not include spending categories like building rentals to firms that do not have official ties to Sundance, a lucrative proposition for some with places on Main Street.
The steep drop in the money spent on lodging will likely be of significant interest. Hotels, lodges and individuals who rent out places normally charge some of the top rates of the year during Sundance, when room rates are known to climb to well over $1,000 per night.
Addicott said people at the festival were creative this year as they found places to stay. Some stayed with family or friends instead of renting a place, she said, while others put more people into a room than they would have previously.
Organizers see the slight increase in attendance as a sign that Sundance remains popular. The festival is widely seen as the top domestic marketplace of independent films and one of the top on the international circuit.
"For us, people were seeing films. We had more butts in seats, so to speak," Addicott said.
The University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research compiled the report based on 618 surveys of people who attended Sundance. The surveyors used data collected from people in Park City and other Sundance locations in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance Resort.
There was anecdotal evidence during the festival itself that business was down from Sundance’s boom years of the last decade. Still, though, many saw Sundance as a bright week for business in a ski season that was lackluster compared to recent record-setting years.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.