May 1, 2024 - News

San Francisco, Atlanta and more eye Park City's Sundance Film Festival

Illustration of a film strip in the shape of a question mark.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Wednesday marked the deadline for U.S. cities to place their bids to host the Sundance Film Festival starting in 2027 and a few surprising contenders have emerged.

State of play: So far, officials in Atlanta, Minneapolis and San Francisco and Savannah, Georgia have said they planned to place bids to become the new home for the largest independent film festival in the U.S., per multiple reports.

Catch up quick: Sundance Institute, the nonprofit behind the film festival, announced last month that it was exploring relocation and began accepting bids April 17.

  • The annual event, founded by Robert Redford, has been held in Park City for the last four decades.
  • It's not guaranteed that the festival will move out of Utah.

Yes, but: Attendees have long complained about bumper-to-bumper traffic, frigid temperatures and expensive lodging in the resort town.

Between the lines: Denver and Cleveland don't plan to throw their hats in the ring, with leaders saying they'd rather invest in their local film festivals.

By the numbers: Last year's event drew nearly 87,000 in-person attendees, with out-of-state visitors spending about $97 million in Utah during the festival, per an economic impact report prepared by Y2 Analytics.

What's next: Sundance Institute will select potential cities to submit proposals from May 7 through June 21.

  • It will not disclose the cities it's having conversations with.
  • A final site location is expected to be announced at the end of the year or early 2025.

What other Axios Local cities have to say

We asked our Axios Local colleagues to chime in and make a case for moving the festival to their towns.

Axios Twin Cities' Kyle Stokes: Downtown's theater district has three gorgeous, historic venues. Two of the best regional art centers in the U.S. — the Guthrie Theater and Walker Art Center — could also supply world-class spaces.

  • Sundance ski traditions could even continue — just as cross-country, not downhill.
  • Plus, Minnesota gave the film world the Coen brothers, Pixar director Pete Docter and "Jingle All The Way" (a classic). We're due.
  • Yeah, it's chilly here — but Park City's not exactly Tahiti in February. Nothing like a Minnesota winter to keep the stars flaunting their best coats, sweaters and boots.

Axios San Francisco's Megan Rose Dickey: There are plenty of venues, many of them historic, to choose from.

  • Sundance could screen films at the iconic Roxie Theater or the state-of-the-art Premier Theater in the historic Presidio National Park.
  • And what's great about SF is that the temperature is pretty much always moderate.
  • Sure, it might mean the end of Sundance ski traditions, but there's an opportunity for new traditions to be made. Perhaps sailing in the Bay? Just spitballing here!
  • Plus, San Francisco is desperate for tourism so we would roll out a literal red carpet for the festival.

Axios Atlanta's Thomas Wheatley: Come on down South.

  • Hollywood's plenty familiar with Georgia thanks to the state's lucrative tax credit, wealth of production talent and our variety of locations (no desert, unfortunately).
  • Atlanta's airport serves more than 220 domestic and international destinations, and our growing film community has plenty of cinemas to host screenings, including The Plaza Theatre and Tara Atlanta.
  • Savannah's one of the country's oldest and most beautiful cities with Michelin-rated restaurants and plenty of bars.
  • We might not have ski slopes but… we have a Coca-Cola Museum? Don't worry, we can figure out a new tradition for you.
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