SALT LAKE CITY — Sharing the marquee with the Super Bowl may have had negative impacts on the 2019 Sundance Film Festival's attendance and economic wherewithal, but the latest iteration of the event still pumped some $182 million into Utah's economy.
This year's stat sheet, assembled by Utah-based Y2 Analytics, for the annual showcase and competition for independent filmmakers reflects wide-ranging and signficant downstream economic boosts. With an overall $182.5 million jolt to Utah's gross domestic product, the study also determined that the 2019 festival generated over $18.6 million in state and local tax revenue; supported 3,052 jobs; generated $94 million in Utah wages; and attracted more than 122,000 attendees from 48 states and 35 countries.
This year’s economic impact brings Sundance's five-year cumulative total since 2015 to $681.5 million, with more than $66.7 million in state and local tax revenue generated and over 11,900 jobs supported, the report notes.
Sundance Institute managing director Betsy Wallace said the event was held a week later this year, which put it head-to-head with the NFL's Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February, which may have contributed to a slight drop in attendance, down about 3,000 from last year, and overall economic impacts, which fell about $8 million from 2018. But Wallace said the Y2 report reflected that the festival drew a bigger share of millenial-aged attendees and the overall audience was more diverse than previous years.
"On top of our exciting screenings and live programming, the Sundance Film Festival is proud to bring an increasingly wide and diverse audience from around the globe to Utah each year to support both our artists and our home state," Wallace said in a statement. "We're grateful for our audiences' dedication, as well as the wide-ranging benefits that they bring, especially in allowing us to showcase the state of Utah to the world."
Wallace said that even though Sundance founder Robert Redford took a bit of a back seat on some of the festival's public events this year, he was still very much a part of the proceedings and is spending more time on programs focused on up-and-coming filmmakers.
Gov. Gary Herbert noted how the event has become an inseparable element of Utah's tourism and visitor brand.
“Since its founding, the Sundance Film Festival has become an important part of the cultural and economic fabric of Utah,” Herbert said in a statement. “Utah is a great destination for tourists year round, but during the festival we really get to engage in the worlds of film and the arts. We appreciate our ongoing partnership with Sundance Institute."
The Utah Legislature has long recognized the festival as an economic boon for the state and has been making yearly appropriations in support of the event.
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said it's a tradition that will continue.
“Each year the full breadth of the unique benefits provided to the state of Utah and our business community by the Sundance Film Festival become more apparent,” Wilson said in a statement. “We look forward to many more years of great success through our ongoing collaboration between Sundance Institute and the state.”
While Sundance 2019 may have dropped a notch when measured by attendance or economic heft, the content offered over the festival's fortnight run earned plenty of industry attention, as did some standout numbers when it comes to who was behind the cameras.
According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women directed only four of the top 100 grossing films of 2018. Among the Sundance 2019 film selections, women were at the helm of almost half, about 44 percent. And while the entity that puts the festival together, Sundance Institute, stays out of the business side of the event, industry watchers noted a slew of big deals and plenty of head-to-head competition between studios and streaming services.1 comment on this story
Amazon was the most prolific spender among streaming services, dropping an estimated $46 million on five films, including Grand Jury Prize documentary winner “One Child Nation.” Netflix snagged two films including the U.S. Documentary director award-winning “American Factory.”
Wallace also highlighted the success of two venues that featured augmented reality and virtual reality programming that drew big crowds and may have helped boost interest among younger festivalgoers. She also noted that locals who may have missed out on the Sundance 2019 films can still catch some of the festival's best thanks to free outdoor screenings happening throughout the summer via the Sundance Institute Summer Film Series. Visit sundance.org for details.