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Sundance will throw a Main Street party

Sundance Film Festival organizers recently won an approval from the Park City Council to close to traffic a section of lower Main Street to traffic during January’s festival, a decision that allows Sundance to turn a stretch of the street into a new hotspot.

The City Council voted, 4-0, to allow the organizers to close Main Street between 7th Street and 9th Street. Sundance will then put up a 90-foot-long, 30-foot-wide temporary building, which will be used from the morning until the night. Drivers will be forced onto nearby cross streets to get to the upper part of Main Street.

Sundance anticipates the general public will be allowed in during the morning, Sundance credential holders and some regular people may get in during afternoons and private parties will be scheduled at night. Sundance sponsors will display their goods for the public outside the temporary building.

Meanwhile, Sundance’s Music Cafe, a popular place during the festival where artists — both stars and up-and-coming acts — perform, will move to the building in 2009. It had been housed at the Star Bar on the upper part of Main Street for years.

Sundance also intends to expand the official festival presence on lower Main Street to the Town Lift Plaza and The Shops at the Village on Main. The two are steps away from the section of Main Street where the Sundance temporary building will be placed.

The Sundance activities north of Heber Avenue will widen the festivities on what is already a jammed Main Street. Much of the festival partying, celebrity gawking and protesting is centered on Main Street, mostly on the upper part of the street. Lower Main Street is usually busy, but the crowds are typically greater uphill from Heber Avenue.

The City Council, without Roger Harlan in attendance, approved the plans after hearing a limited amount of input from Main Street. Regular Parkites did not closely follow the discussions. City Hall indicated Main Street leaders support the plans.

The section of the street will be closed from Jan. 12 until Jan. 26. The festival runs Jan. 15-25. The Jan. 12 start of the closure prompted a question about the timing three days prior to the festival, but the City Councilors were told it will take that long to set up the temporary building.

Sandy Geldhof, who is the executive director of the Historic Main Street Business Alliance, a merchants group, said there were initial concerns that Sundance could compete with restaurants if it sold food on lower Main Street. Sundance has indicated it would not, though.

Geldhof also said merchants and restaurateurs on lower Main Street want the Sundance zone to appear welcoming. Sundance officials said it would.

The lower Main Street plans are a strategic move for Sundance, which wants to offer coveted Main Street visibility to official festival sponsors. For years, corporate interests without direct ties to Sundance have rented temporary space on Main Street to draw on the celebrity-heavy crowds in Park City for the festival.

The opening days of the festival are especially busy, and some of the corporate interests spend big money renting space and setting up temporary quarter for the festival’s first weekend. Many of them dismantle their elaborate setups by the middle of the festival.

Sundance has long been peeved with the trend, sometimes called ambush marketing, saying the corporations are benefiting from the festival without the direct ties. Festival organizers and the owners of the Town Lift Plaza once clashed after the Town Lift side put on display a sport utility vehicle at the high-profile plaza. The automaker was not an official Sundance sponsor.

Sundance is regarded as one of the top film festivals on the international circuit, alongside festivals in places like Toronto, Berlin and Cannes, France. Hits that screened at Sundance include "Little Miss Sunshine," "Super Size Me" and "The Blair Witch Project."

Businesses at The Shops at the Village on Main are excited with the plans to close part of lower Main Street, with a representative saying the sales are usually good during Sundance anyway.

Margaret Nathan, who monitored the City Hall-Sundance discussions for The Shops, said she expects more people to visit The Shops during the 2009 festival, drawn by the activities on lower Main Street. Sundance also plans to broadcast a live feed of the Music Cafe performances at The Shops.

"They think it’s really great. It’s a great opportunity for them," Nathan said, adding, "It will be a nice draw for that part of Main Street."


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