Sundance Film Festival Numbers Take Very Small Dip According To The Institute's 2019 Report

Jun 4, 2019

Credit Sundance Institute

The Sundance Institute’s report on the economic impact of the 2019 Film Festival shows the numbers are down a little from the previous year.

But the Institute’s Managing Director, Betsy Wallace, said that statistically, the results are relatively flat.

The Sundance report said the Festival saw 2,700 fewer attendees, a two percent drop from 2018. Visitors spent about $177 million, which is $7 million less than the previous year.

Betsy Wallace said they were in a unique situation. Under an agreement with Park City, the beginning of the event shifts to avoid a conflict with Martin Luther King Day. And this year, the end of the Festival encountered two sports events.

“If I look back and say hey, why do I think it was a slight fall? Just a de minimis fall? One, as you recall several years ago, we came off of MLK in a collaboration with the city and the ski resorts. As MLK moves, so does the festival. So, we came in at the end of the month when normally we’re third and fourth weekend and this time we were the last weekend and into February. Because of that it slotted our last Sunday on to Super Bowl and from Wednesday on, to second week we came in competition with FIS championships.”

She said the annual report helps them to get grants. It spotlights that arts and culture are a good economic driver for the state of Utah. And it reaffirms that Sundance is one of the top three film festivals in the world—another being Cannes and the third, she said, Toronto or Berlin.

The figures also show the diversity they’re bringing to the new independent voices of Sundance.

“We brought in 1,100 press this year and from all over the world. I think some of the accomplishments that I wanted to talk a little bit about were just the dynamics and the demographics that came from film makers. We had 44% of our films were female and 42% were film makers of color, 18% were LGBTQ I or identifying film makers. Those are remarkable statistics and something that we're really proud of because you don't see that in the entertainment world yet. We're hoping that everybody sort of catches up, but it just tells you that independent film makers are out there. They’re all different kind of people, they have a voice.”

Wallace said they’ve upgraded their system to count attendance at the Festival.

“The way that we're now using sensors and using Blyncsy, which the city uses, and we go through a complete scrubbing of making sure we're not duplicating or triple Wi-Fi Bluetooth all of that is taken out. Locals are taken out. It's really people that are coming into a theater or coming into one of the venues along Main Street. Two years ago, we broadened those sensors to include the venues that we take care of, so Music Café, Filmmaker Lodge, and then also the sponsors. So, we really wanted to get a really holistic view of who is coming.”

This Monday marked the opening day to receive submissions for next year’s festival. The Institute announced it has just contracted with a new service to receive submittals.

“It's one that's a little bit more stable than the one we had before. The technology that we used before is a platform, that many of the festivals used 10-12 years ago and we kept on it. Being a nonprofit, we want to make sure when we make a change that we can afford it and it's the right move for us. So yes, we did make a change it's a great platform it's used by many other festivals. It is that platform that allows for easy transition of submissions to go to our programmers and one that we probably should brought in two years ago, but it didn't slow down the quality or anything about the festival. It's just a more solid program platform.”

Submissions are received until around the end of August.

Wallace said last year, they received some 14,000 submissions, and whittled those down to 240 films.

She said their programmers are already traveling the world, contracting filmmakers to see if they’re ready to submit their work.

“They don't interfere with the film, they’re not into the production side. It's really just sort of being a mentor to them, so it's a great process.”

Wallace says the programmers are the ones who narrow down the films.

“Yeah, they really do. We have a strong Chinese wall within Sundance. I can't influence, nobody in LA can influence, we just get a report the three days before Thanksgiving which is when they shorted the entire list down to 240, like we did last year. They start making the phone calls to people that were accepted. We really have no influence on it. Only the programmers do. That's their job and they do it very very well.”