© 2024 KPCW

Spencer F. Eccles Broadcast Center
PO Box 1372 | 460 Swede Alley
Park City | UT | 84060
Office: (435) 649-9004 | Studio: (435) 655-8255

Music & Artist Inquiries: music@kpcw.org
News Tips & Press Releases: news@kpcw.org
Volunteer Opportunities
General Inquiries: info@kpcw.org
Listen Like a Local Park City & Heber City Summit & Wasatch counties, Utah
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

‘This is Sundance’s home’: Park City braces for potential departure of iconic indie fest

A screening at Park City's Eccles Center during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Sundance's existing contract with Park City, which has hosted the festival for 40 years, expires after 2026.
Jemal Countess/Sundance Institute
A post screening Q&A at Park City's Eccles Center during the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Sundance's existing contract with Park City, which has hosted the festival for 40 years, expires after 2026.

The Sundance Film Festival is considering a new home for 2027 and beyond. The possible relocation could have a major financial and cultural impact on Park City.

Egyptian Theatre Executive Director Randy Barton said losing the film festival would be a “monumental loss.” On the KPCW Local News Hour, Barton called for collaboration and more government funding for the arts in order to keep the annual event.

“I think we need to first of all, rally around them and get rid of this idea that they are some big behemoth that’s trying to muscle us into giving them a better deal,” Barton said. “I don’t know where this mentality of ‘go away’ came from. That Park City became so popular that we now want people to go away… We want Sundance. We love Sundance. This is Sundance’s home.”

Mike Sweeney’s family owns property in the area of the Town Lift. He told KPCW that he’s seen Main Street businesses negotiate two week leases of $300,000 to $400,000 during the Sundance Film Festival.

“They made some really significant money, which basically helped them during the leaner parts of the year, because some of those venue spaces rented for some ungodly amounts of money, not counting the upgrade of inside the building itself,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said losing the festival would hurt. He said with enough snow, the local ski industry could partially fill the late-January hole if Sundance chooses to leave.

Monty Coates is the president of the Historic Park City Alliance, a group representing Main Street businesses.

“Some businesses, they really rely on Sundance revenue, and other businesses not so much, so it really depends on what kind of business it is,” Coates said.

More than anything, Coates said Sundance and Park City grew up together, and losing the event would have an impact on the area’s character.

“I think Main Street was always kind of a cultural icon for Sundance, and I think in that respect, it’s part of our DNA, it’s part of who we are, it’s part of our identity,” he said. “If it was to leave Park City, I think that would be very detrimental.”

Sundance leaders have repeatedly cited the affordability challenges of hosting such a large-scale event in Utah’s wealthiest city.

Utah Film Commission Executive Director Virginia Pearce said Sundance could benefit from having a larger footprint in Salt Lake City. There were three screening venues in Salt Lake during the 2024 festival.

“We’ve been talking to them for a couple of years about the ability to grow in Salt Lake,” Pearce said. “We have obviously a lot more venues and capacity down here. I still think the community that Park City has created for Sundance shouldn’t ever go away. That is such a special part and really sets Sundance Film Festival apart from other festivals.”

Along with being cheaper, Sundance executives have praised Salt Lake City’s younger, more diverse audience.

The nonprofit said this week it intends to make a decision about relocating by the end of this year or early next year.

Related Content