Park City Has Different Feel On Sundance Film Festival’s First (Virtual) Weekend
PARK CITY, Utah – The Sundance Film Festival plus snow usually equals a huge weekend — one of the year’s very biggest.
Though a significant winter storm brought snow to the area, the equation looked considerably different Friday with the festival continuing online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s sad in a lot of ways,” said Park City Mayor Andy Beerman. “We enjoy having Sundance here every year and this is the first time in a long time they haven’t been in town.”
Most businesses were expecting a significant hit compared to previous years with an in-person festival.
“Sundance usually represents about a 15% ‘kicker’ for most businesses — meaning it’s about 15% of their annual business,” Beerman said.
That extra boost can help to sustain restaurants and retails stores.
“The numbers and revenue we generate during this time of year allows us to carry us through the slower times of the year,” said Ronnie Wedig, partner and director of operations with Diversified Bars & Restaurants.
The ownership group runs several businesses on or near Main Street, including No Name Saloon & Grill, Annex Family Restaurant, Butcher’s Chop House & Bar and Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive.
Wedig said in a typical year he would be working in Park City, but instead found himself at home with a lower-key weekend on tap.
“On Friday night during Sundance I would not be at home in Heber with my family,” Wedig said. “I’d much rather be in Park City right now with Sundance in Utah.”
Beerman said he expected that the city’s businesses would eventually rebound.
“We’re a town that was a silver town before it was a tourism town and we’re used to booms and busts,” Beerman said. “We’ve had economic downturns before and most of the merchants know how to adjust and weather the hard times.”
He also encouraged people to continue to support the festival online so that it would continue in good health into future years.
While many on Main Street noted the distinctly different look and feel to what would have been the first weekend of the Sundance Film Festival, a few didn’t complain.
Ben Voight, of Chicago, said he chose to come to Park City this weekend for a vacation because the festival was not happening.
“Of course, with the snow behind us here (it’s) absolutely amazing — it’s been beautiful,” Voight said. “We want to come out here and we want to ski. I’ll enjoy the movies later, right?”
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