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PARK CITY -- He doesn't have the numbers yet, but to Bill Malone, it feels like the Sundance Film Festival is shaking off the effects of a hunker-down economy, grooming itself for a possible return to all the swag -- and swagger -- of years past.
Malone, who's been head of the Park City Chamber of Commerce the past 11 years, says the occupancy rates for hotel rooms and other lodging are up 12 percent over last year -- a telling barometer to gauge the success of this event, with four full days still left go.
The attention that Sundance brings to Park City was celebrated at a Wednesday press conference at The Town Lift Plaza, where Malone said initial projections show it will produce in excess of $50 million for the state's economy.
It helps, too, that the festival generates such international and national exposure for Park City and Utah, Malone said, adding that the New York Times Magazine recently named Park City as one of the top 41 places to visit in the world, listing it as No. 9.
After the festival winds down, Malone said the city will jump headlong into hosting the FIS Freestyle World Skiing Championships, with four days of competition slated from Feb. 2-5.
"We don't have much turnaround," Malone said, noting he expects double-digit increases in visitation to the mountain resort area, which is heading into its height of the ski season with the President's Day holiday.
"We'll have maybe a day or two to catch our breath," he said.
Feedback from representatives of rental facilities indicates that this year's festival, according to Malone, has seen a return to private parties -- much more so than in the last two years.
He said he believes as people begin to shed their weariness and distrust of what's proven to be a ruthless economic poke in the eye, the parties are becoming more plentiful, the hors d'oeuvres are more upscale and corporations are loosening their wallets.
"The corporate presence is on an uptick once again," he said. "It seems to be the swag is back."
The press conference also provided an opportunity for Richard Kwiat to share information about Doodle Pro, being promoted as a golden "bull's-eye" for independent filmmakers.
The device provides a "point-and-click" platform for filmmakers, including interactive call sheets. It is second-tier technology, in part created by Kwiat, that comes after his Doodle iPhone application, which is a free directory providing 10,000 listings in Utah alone for any local resource a filmmaker might need -- from gaffers and extras to hotels and lodging.
CLICK HERE to view the 2011 Sundance Film Festival photo gallery.