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Sundance draws more people, less money in 2010

Published: Thursday, June 10 2010 10:09 p.m. MDT

Park City's Main Street bustles at Sundance in January. There were more festivalgoers this year, but they spent less money.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

PARK CITY — The Sundance Film Festival drew more people this year than the 2009 event, but it poured less money into the state's economy, due in large part to more cautious spending by visitors who likely have been influenced by the nation's recession.

The Sundance Film Festival in 2010 had an impact of approximately $62.7 million on Utah's economy, which is down by $30 million from the previous year.

However, attendance was 41,221, which shows an increase over the 2009 attendance of 40,291.

Statistics about the world-famous film festival were revealed at a Thursday meeting of the Board of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

The figures showed that the event had an impact of nearly $34 million on employee pay and employer-paid benefits and that it poured $3.3 million into state and local tax coffers (excluding airport taxes).

In one way or another, the Sundance Film Festival supported 1,513 jobs during its 10-day tenure.

According to the annual report commissioned by the Sundance Institute, visitors were more careful with their spending while attending this year's event, and that showed most dramatically in the area of lodging, which was down by $10 million from the previous year. Lodging represents the largest portion of the festival's effect on the state's economy.

"We are hoping that next year things will go up a little bit, but we are proud to have had more people attending this year," said Tina Stahlke Lewis, who heads the Utah Advisory Board of the Sundance Institute.

She also said these are figures that can be documented, but anecdotal information shows that there is considerably more spending associated with the festival for such things as catered parties, gifts and other activities or purchases that cannot be quantified.

Sixty-one percent of the festival attendees were from outside of Utah, including 3,587 international visitors.

The average nonresident visitor came here for more than four days and spent an average of $1,742 while in Utah (not counting plane tickets).

The areas where the financial sums are lower reflect trends that are being seen nationally, according to Brooks Addicott, associate director of media relations for the Sundance Institute.

Besides the artistic merits of the nonprofit event, which cannot be measured, the film festival provides some intangible benefits for Utah that will eventually show financial returns as well.

"It brings the worldwide media to Utah," she said. "The Utah brand is spread throughout the world."

The value of the media exposure has been calculated at $18.5 million, with 14,000 national and international news stories about Utah being generated in connection with the festival. This reflects an increase of about 50 percent compared to last year.

"It's free publicity, other than issuing press credentials," Addicott said. "It helps get the story out."

The festival's financial impact on the state was calculated through an annual study conducted by the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Sundance statistics

Nearly 41 percent of the festival guests came here for the first time in 2010.

Of those who come here from another state or country, 20.7 percent flew into Utah.

47 percent of nonresident guests planned to ski or snowboard while here for the festival.

74 percent of attendees intend to come back to the Sundance Film Festival.

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com

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