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Will the Sundance Film Festival move to Boulder in 2027? With high hopes, city submits its proposal

The festival has called Park City, Utah home since its first year in 1985, but began a process this spring to consider other host locations starting in 2027.
The Sundance Film Festival goes largely virtual for 2021
Posted at 12:56 PM, Jun 20, 2024

DENVER — Will the Sundance Film Festival move to Colorado in 2027? That's what a coalition of regional partners in Boulder are hoping for after they submitted a proposal Thursday to host the renowned independent film festival.

The State of Colorado made the announcement on Thursday on behalf of the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Boulder) and its partners, which include the City of Boulder, the Boulder Chamber, the University of Colorado Boulder and the Stanley Film Center. The city submitted its proposal to the Sundance Institute, which organizes the Sundance Film Festival, Thursday.

The festival has called Park City, Utah, home since its first year in 1985, where it screened 86 films, according to the festival's website.

In April, the Sundance Institute began a process to consider other host locations starting in 2027. Its current contract is up for renewal starting that year. Several cities requested more information in the aftermath, including Boulder. City representatives were invited to submit an application, which was put together by the Colorado Office of Film Television and Media, the Business Funding and Incentives division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and Visit Boulder.

Denver7's sister station in Salt Lake City covered Sundance's announcement that it would consider other hosts. Watch that story in the video player below:

Sundance Film Festival considers allowing other cities to host

The application highlighted how Boulder and Colorado "can help preserve and grow an inclusive Festival centered around artists and filmmakers while engaging diverse audiences," the state said in a press release Thursday morning. It added that Boulder is close to the mountains, embraces the outdoors and creatives, is a walkable community with unique event spaces and is close to the Denver International Airport.

As part of this proposal, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved a one-time $1.5 million incentive on Thursday morning, and cash and in-kind contributions from the City of Boulder and regional partners will provide a match that "will substantially exceed one-to-one," the state said. In addition, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade will contribute $325,000 to the proposal.

The Office of Economic Development and International Trade said continued contributions will strengthen the proposal for Boulder to host Sundance, and it is working with partners to secure philanthropic support.

Hosting the Sundance Film Festival would create hundreds of new jobs, attract thousands from out of state and increase winter tourism for the Boulder area, the state said. The visitors would also provide a boost to small businesses that rely on tourism. Eve Lieberman, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, said the state's relative industries contribute $16.8 billion to the economy every year and account for about 4% of jobs.

"Hosting the prestigious Sundance Film Festival will grow the sector’s contributions to our state while raising Colorado’s profile across the globe, benefiting the many small businesses that depend on tourism and out-of-state visitors for their livelihoods,” she said.

The 2023 festival in Park City created 1,608 jobs for Utah residents, $63 million in wages and attracted 21,000 visitors from out of state. In total, it contributed more than $118 million to the state's economy, according to Colorado's press release.

“This really allows the film festival to stay true to its mountain roots, and at the same time, grow and scale and become an even more amazing cultural contributor to the country and world," said Governor Jared Polis. “There's a lot of people that are very excited, not only, of course, local businesses, restaurants and stores that will benefit from increased business, but frankly so many creative people and film aficionados in Colorado that are very excited about the potential for Sundance to come here.”

Polis said the film festival is estimated to bring anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 people to Colorado, with an economic benefit of more than $100 million, if the bid is successful.

There are many advantages Boulder has over other cities, according to Polis. Those include a connection to Robert Redford, who attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for one year in the 1950s, the mountain backdrop, and accessibility.

“Boulder and Denver are a lot easier to get to than Utah. In fact, Denver has the third most flights of any airport in North America. So that's one of our advantages, as people can get to Colorado from really anywhere in the country, in the world very easily with many direct flights," Polis explained.

The 2025 and 2026 festivals will continue in Utah. The state will have the chance to keep the festival with its own proposal.

The final location selection will be announced later this year or early 2025, the Sundance Institute said.

“We are in a unique moment for our Festival and our global film community, and with the contract up for renewal, this exploration allows us to responsibly consider how we best continue sustainably serving our community while maintaining the essence of the Festival experience,” said Eugene Hernandez, director of the Sundance Film Festival and Public Programming, in April. “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.”

In November, the Sundance Institute and Stanley Hotel in Estes Park announced the iconic hotel would host the Sundance Institute Directors Lab in 2024.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

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Stanley Hotel to host Sundance Institute's workshop for aspiring directors

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9:47 AM, Nov 29, 2023

The Directors Lab, a two- to three-week annual filmmaking workshop, was previously held at the Sundance Resort for about 40 years, according to the Institute. It will move to Colorado while the Sundance property is under construction.


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