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Sundance often, but not always good for business

Posted at 10:20 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-02 00:20:26-05

PARK CITY, Utah — The Sundance Film Festival brings big business to shops with small prices, while others question the merit of staying open, leading more and more of those businesses to make money by leasing their space.

The Sundance Film Festival brings a lot of foot traffic to local shops in Park City, but that doesn’t necessarily mean big business.

Amid the tens of thousands of people, dozens of movies and traffic, local shops like Sock City try to put their best foot forward during Sundance.

“It’s one of our high points in the year so we always look forward to it,” said Scott Petty, manager of Sock City on Main Street. “We get a constant flow of people in.

Petty noted that socks tend to sell well because they're inexpensive and easy to fit into luggage.

But take your feet down the street to Pando Art Gallery and you’ll see a different side of Park City, the products are just as colorful and captivating, but with one stark difference -- the price tag.

“Two thousand dollars is the cheap stuff you could say… Then we have art that goes all the way up to $150-thousand,” said Colby Larsen, the owner of Pando.

Many expect Sundance’s big city films to bring in big city money, but that’s not the case.

“The people that are here during Sundance… they’re really the people that, they don’t buy,” Larsen said.

Pando is one of five galleries that Larsen owns on Main Street.

“I get asked, ‘Oh are you making so much money during Sundance? Are you just crushing it now?' and i’m like 'No, actually'," Larsen said.

He said every year they try to rent out their spaces to companies coming in for the festival. At Pando, the price tag for that rental is $75,000.

“What they pay to move into our spaces, it pays for like six months of the year,” Larsen said.

This year, the city granted 155 leasing permits to businesses, but three of his spaces still went unrented.

“Everyone [companies] started to want to rent just the first three days of Sundance,” Larsen said. “It starts to make it not worth it."

He said it’s just the gamble some business owners have to take to stay afloat during Sundance.

This year's Sundance Film Festival ends Sunday. The temporary businesses are expected to clear out by Feb. 5.