Leaving Park City? Sundance Institute seeks proposals for future location of film festival

Apr 17, 2024, 1:16 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm

PARK CITY — The Sundance Institute announced Wednesday it is beginning a process “to explore viable locations in the United States to host the Sundance Film Festival beginning in 2027.”

The institute is asking for formal proposals in an initial information gathering period — “the first step in a comprehensive selection process designed to gather critical logistical information from potential host locations,” according to a press release. This announcement comes as the deadline for contract negotiation between Sundance and Park City, expiring after the 2026 festival, was extended to Oct. 1, so that a new long-term strategic plan could be developed with revenue data from 2024.

At the council meeting to address the contract extension in October, former Sundance CEO Joana Vicente was asked if the organization had a long-term commitment to Park City. Foreshadowing this announcement, Vicente responded, “We’re really asking all questions. In terms of when you go into a new strategic plan, you’re really charting the future.”

Vicente has since stepped down, with former Instagram executive Amanda Kelso taking her place in what Ebs Burnough, chairwoman of the Sundance Institute board, called a “longer and larger commitment.” At the time, she said Sundance’s revenue “has dropped significantly after the lockdown and we’ve yet to see a rebound.”

In the press release, however, Sundance announced it had a record number of submissions this past year, “more than 17,000 from 153 countries — reflecting a continued vitality in the independent film industry.” The business model of an in-person festival has continued to change, with hybrid screening options becoming a regular part of the schedule.

Evaluating all options

While the festival will begin evaluating all options, Utah remains the incumbent to beat.

“Park City has been our home for more than 40 years, together with the state of Utah, and Sundance cherishes and respects our history and partnership,” Burnough said.

Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission, told KSL.com the festival has been a great success in bringing the film industry to Utah, and the commission has met numerous partners at the festival that have gone on to make movies in the state. Pearce called this the “perfect moment to reimagine the festival,” and believes Utah has a “leg up” on all other potential bids.

Park City Mayor Nann Worel responded to the news with a statement, saying, “We want the festival to remain here for another 40 years,” citing the thousands of volunteers from the community, and the “passion of our visitor and resident film lovers.” Worel compared the growth of Sundance to the growth of Park City in the last 40 years.

“We were just starting to realize what this place could become,” Worel said, adding that the city will “work collaboratively with all our state and local partners on next steps.”

Amy Redford, daughter of festival founder Robert Redford, will be on the committee selecting the future host.

Sundance will close the request for information phase on May 1, moving into a request for proposal phase lasting until June 21. Sundance has given a window between October and March for announcing the final location selection for festivals starting in 2027 and extending into the future.

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Leaving Park City? Sundance Institute seeks proposals for future location of film festival