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T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News
Leandro Sepulveda, center, of Valparaiso, Spain, has his picture taken with actress Juliette Lewis as she leans out of the window of her limo on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Jan. 25, 2010. A new deal will keep the festival in Park City through 2026.
Having been here since the festival started, from when people were borrowing chairs to put in people's garages with a film screen and 8mm films, it's really come a long way —Park City Mayor Dana Williams

PARK CITY — The Sundance Film Festival will stay in Park City through 2026 in a new deal that delays the start of the annual event until after the Martin Luther King holiday in exchange for additional financial incentives.

"I think we all philosophically feel pretty strongly that Park City is the home of Sundance. We've grown up with them over 30 years," Park City Mayor Dana Williams said. "I think it's just a win-win for everybody."

The deal, approved Thursday by the Park City Council, extends the agreement with the festival founded by actor and director Robert Redford that could have ended after 2018.

Williams said that while the city had never heard Sundance officials were seriously looking at moving the festival, he couldn't be sure. "They held their cards pretty close to their chest," the mayor said.

The three-day weekend resulting from the celebration on the third Monday in January of the slain civil rights leader's birthday is typically one of the busiest times at ski resorts, said Diane Foster, the city manager of Park City.

Foster said a study found that the city would have lost $4.2 million in revenues from skiers for each of the years the Martin Luther King holiday fell during the festival through 2026 had the dates not been moved.

There are five years when the traditional Thursday start of the festival will be delayed a week: 2015, 2019, 2020, 2025 and 2026. Although the holiday and the festival start overlap in 2014, that festival schedule won't change.

The delayed start is a risk for the festival, said Foster, an ex-officio member of the Sundance Utah Advisory Board. Currently, it is the first major international film festival of the year, hosting many world premiers.

She said the additional financial incentives agreed to by the city are seen as compensation for that risk. The festival already gets $430,000 in cash and nearly $240,000 in services each year.

Now, the festival will also receive an average of almost $195,000 annually in cash, fee rebates and services from the city, as well as another $50,000 from the Park City Chamber of Commerce in the years the festival starts later.

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Williams said given the financial impact of hosting Sundance — some $69.5 million to the state this year — "the city feels very strongly it was worthwhile to sweeten the pot, so to speak, to keep the festival."

The mayor said both the city and the state also benefit from the recognition of hosting the festival, the premier marketplace for independent films that attracts worldwide attention.

That recognition is "very good for all of us," he said. "Having been here since the festival started, from when people were borrowing chairs to put in people's garages with a film screen and 8mm films, it's really come a long way."

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