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For Some Small Business, Lots Of People During Sundance But Not So Many Customers

Photo of Main Street in Park City, UT during Sundance.
Jon Reed
For some business owners on Park City's Main Street, this year’s Sundance Film Festival has been slower than usual. ";

The Sundance Film Festival brings in tens of thousands of people to the streets of Park City. And for many of the area’s small businesses, it’s one of the biggest weeks of the year. 

In 2019, over 122,000 attended the festival and spent about $176 million, according to the annual economic impact study that usually comes out a few months after the event. By far, the local businesses that benefit the most from that spending are hotels and other lodging, followed by entertainment and food.

While it’s too soon to say what the impact of this year’s festival will be, it hasn’t been great so far for business owners like Zia Boccaccio. She runs Alpaca International, a clothing store on Main Street, and said Sundance was one of the big reasons she set up shop in Park City. 

While her customers normally have to elbow their way through the store during the festival — especially the first weekend — she said this year it’s been so slow she’s sent employees home early. 

“We’re still waiting for that great week or great day,” she said. “It’s a little worrisome.”

She thinks the slump has something to do with the way traffic has been managed. Park City banned parking on Main Street this year and made some of the neighboring streets one-way. Boccaccio says that may be keeping visitors from exploring the area, where there’s only one theater. 

Just up the street, Thomas Anthony, who runs the Thomas Anthony Gallery, said the festival is great for Park City’s image and attracting tourists to the area, but he usually doesn’t see a bump in sales during the festival. The Hollywood crowd is too focused on movies and press to shop around, he said, so the challenge for him is just dealing with how big the festival’s become. 

“The traffic, the parking, the crowds — I don’t know if anyone can keep up with it,” he said. “I think Sundance has outgrown Park City and has for a number of years.”

For now, he said his relationship with the festival is one of peaceful coexistence. 

As for Boccaccio, she said she’s waiting to see what weekend two brings.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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