Utah's plan to retain Sundance Film Festival would split it between 2 cities

Signs are posted for the 2024 Sundance Film Festival on Main Street in Park City on Jan. 18. Utah's bid to retain the event beyond 2026 is still in play with Park City and Salt Lake City officials working together with the Utah Film Commission.

Signs are posted for the 2024 Sundance Film Festival on Main Street in Park City on Jan. 18. Utah's bid to retain the event beyond 2026 is still in play with Park City and Salt Lake City officials working together with the Utah Film Commission. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — It appears that Utah's bid to retain the Sundance Film Festival beyond 2026 will focus on splitting it between its current home and its first one.

Few details about Utah's bid have been made available since the Utah Film Commission announced Utah had filed a request for proposal response to the Sundance Institute in May. The commission confirmed that it submitted a request-for-proposals response — to Sundance's questions about the bid — on June 20, but it declined to offer many details about what's in the request.

"We deeply appreciate the opportunity to continue through this process," said Utah Film Commission Director Virginia Pearce in a statement on behalf of the Utah Host Committee. "As the proud home of the Sundance Film Festival, our commitment to its success is deep-rooted. This process has inspired us to reimagine the festival, renew our passion for preserving its connection to its home, and envision a future that brings shared growth and sustainable success for years to come."

However, a few more nuggets about the process were unveiled during the Salt Lake City Council meeting on Tuesday. Salt Lake City staffers informed the City Council that the Utah Film Commission, Salt Lake City, Visit Salt Lake, Salt Lake County, Park City, Park City Chamber and Visitors Bureau and Summit County filed a joint bid to host the event.

The annual winter event would be hosted in both Park City and Salt Lake City, according to Lindsey Nikola, deputy chief of staff for the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office.

It wasn't immediately clear how the events would be split up between the two cities. Park City has been the primary host since 1981, but several Sundance film screenings have trickled into Salt Lake City in recent years, utilizing venues like the Rose Wagner Center and Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway.

Sundance originated as the Utah/United States Film Festival in 1978, which was held at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. It remained in Utah's capital for a few more years before organizers moved it to Park City and the Sundance Institute took over the event.

Spokespeople for Salt Lake City and Park City declined to comment, directing KSL.com to the Utah Film Commission. Commission officials also declined to comment any further, saying they will allow the Sundance Institute "to confirm further details."

Sundance Institute officials have also been tight-lipped about the process since announcing in April that it was accepting bids to host the major film event beginning in 2027, after its current contract in Park City wraps up. The June 20 RFP response means that Utah is still in the running to retain what is now a global event.

Nikola said there's no timetable for when the half-dozen entities will "hear back" from Sundance on this submission, but she described what would happen next if Utah advances.

"We anticipate that phase three of this process will include site visits and work groups," she said, adding that the city is expecting that the decision will be made by late 2024 or early 2025.

But Utah does have competition as other cities are trying to swoop in and land the event that drew in 17,000 film submissions this past year. Atlanta's bid includes $2 million in support, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on June 24. Colorado officials also approved a $1.5 million incentive to woo the event across Utah's eastern border to Boulder, Colorado.

Other cities still in the running include Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Nashville, Tennessee, according to news outlets in those states.

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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