Sundance Opens Bids to Explore Alternative Locations for Festival

The Sundance Institute is opening up a bidding process for a potential new host city for the Sundance Film Festival, signaling a possible exit from Park City, Utah, where the indie mecca has called home since its creation in 1985.

Sundance will hold a request for information (RFI) period for interested cities in the United States from April 17 to May 1, then select cities will participate in a request for proposal (RFP) process from May 7 to June 21. The chosen city will be announced next winter and will host the festival starting in 2027.

“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 in a statement released Wednesday.

“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,” Hernandez added.

While the list of potential host cities is still forthcoming, a move by the festival is not a guarantee and Park City is expected to put in a bid to keep the festival where it is after the ski resort town’s current contract with Sundance expires in 2026. As TheWrap reported last week, Sundance has until October to inform Park City officials whether it will be extending its contract with the city.

“We appreciate our partnership with Sundance, and we want the Festival to remain here for another 40 years,” Park City Mayor Nann Worel said in a statement. “We will not be alone in the effort to ensure that Utah remains host to diverse new voices from around the globe. With gratitude to the thousands of volunteers, our dedicated workforce, our residents, and the passion of our visitor and resident film lovers — we will work collaboratively with all our state and local partners on next steps.”

The bidding process comes as Sundance, like many other major film festivals such as Toronto and Berlin, have struggled financially following the pandemic. The Sundance Film Festival reported annual losses of around $6 million in 2021 and 2023, while donations to the Sundance Institute declined by $15 million last year and the number of distribution deals made at the festival have decreased amid an industry-wide scaling back in content spending.

And while Park City will fight to keep the festival that has been its biggest claim to fame, there have been concerns that Sundance has become too big for its birthplace. Founded as a mining town that transitioned to a tourism-based economy with nearby ski resorts, Park City has faced grumblings from residents and businesses about how the town’s local transportation and hotels are overwhelmed by demand when Sundance comes to town every January. Some screenings have been moved to nearby Salt Lake City to help ease capacity strain on the town.

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