PARK CITY — Locals and short-term visitors have filled the gap in Sundance tickets and lodging sales this year, putting the independent film festival on track to once again add millions to Utah's economy.
Armed with a new director, new sponsors and programs designed to get even more independent films to cinematic spectators, Sundance 2010 has lit up Park City with more than just celebrity faces and their entourages of flashing lights and shutterbugs. The event is putting dollars in cash registers all over town, thereby supporting hundreds of jobs and businesses in the city.
"It's still something that's very much looked forward to in our community and especially when it comes to the dining components," said Park City Chamber of Commerce President Bill Malone.
The chamber tracks lodging for local hotels and ski resorts, which rent condominiums to skiers, vacationers and industry representatives.
In 2010, low sales on early bookings have been covered by last-minute travelers and locals, said Malone. In that regard, the economic impact of Sundance 2010 is similar to 2009, when the University of Utah estimated a $92 million impact on Utah.
"What we're seeing is a real change in terms of walk-in business, people showing up without reservations or calling a day before," said Malone. "In most cases, places are able to handle them."
For Sundance assistant director of media Brooks Addicott, 2010 has been "probably more vibrant this year than any other year."
But the several months of planning for 2010's Sundance Film Festival weren't worry free. In fact, Addicott predicted that fewer press and industry representatives would be in Park City this year because of the angst and economic agitation that colored 2009.
But film screenings have been selling out, said Addicott, and new sponsors such as Bing.com jumped on board this year to complement returning corporations such as Nalgene, Brita and Honda.
For the Park City economy, that's great news. And it comes on top of even more good news, said city budget officer Brett Howser. In November, sales tax revenues in the city were up from 2009, the first year-over-year increase since March of 2008.
But the fiscal quarter during which Sundance sales taxes are collected is always the highest grossing, he said. For 2010, those figures should be available by spring.
"Last year we had a lot of people — we had a lot of feet on Main Street — but we didn't have a lot of wallets on cash registers," Howser said. "As much people or more are here and they're spending more, we think."