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After 40 years in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival might start playing the field

© Tanzi Propst 2021
Tanzi Propst
Park City Municipal
While the Sundance Film Festival is starting to explore its options, Institute representatives said the process does not mean they’ve decided to move away from Park City, or even Utah.

Utah’s iconic Sundance Film Festival could get a new home in 2027 and beyond.

The Sundance Institute, the nonprofit behind the festival, announced on April 17 that it would explore new host sites in the future. The contract with Park City, which is gearing up for renegotiates later this year, is set to expire in 2026.

Both Sundance and the film industry are “in a unique moment,” said Eugene Hernandez, the festival programming director in a statement. Opening up to other cities “allows us to responsibly consider how we best continue sustainably serving our community while maintaining the essence of the Festival experience.”

“We are looking forward to conversations that center supporting artists and serving audiences as part of our mission and work at Sundance Institute, and are motivated by our commitment to ensure that the Festival continues to thrive culturally, operationally, and financially as it has for four decades,” the statement concludes

A process to request information from interested hosts will begin on April 17 and close May 1. A request for proposals will follow.

Institute representatives said the process does not mean they’ve decided to move away from Park City, or even Utah.

In a statement, Park City Mayor Nann Worel said the city “want[s] the Festival to remain here for another 40 years.”

“We will not be alone in the effort to ensure that Utah remains host to diverse new voices from around the globe,” said Worel. “With gratitude to the thousands of volunteers, our dedicated workforce, our residents, and the passion of our visitor and resident film lovers — we will work collaboratively with all our state and local partners on next steps.”

The festival and its sponsors take over venues in the Utah mountain resort town every January to transform it into a film hub with theaters in places like the library and other pop-up experiences

The contract — and a changing landscape — became an opportunity for organizers to look at options that might best suit the festival going forward. Sundance received a record number of submissions last year.

“We are thrilled with the vitality we see in independent filmmaking and want to assure the continuous discovery and support of independent artists and audiences our Festival is known for,” said a statement from Ebs Burnough, the chair of the board.

Founder Robert Redford, who stepped back from the Sundance spotlight years ago, expressed concern in 2016 that the festival as it existed might have outgrown Park City and was thinking about ways to evolve. He and his daughter, Amy Redford, who is on the board, have been involved in the process announced Wednesday.

CEO Joana Vicente stepped down after two and a half years in the position in March. Amanda Kelso, a member of the board, was appointed acting CEO, but no permanent replacement has been announced.

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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