John Cooper has been named director of the Sundance Film Festival in a widely expected move that takes immediate effect in the wake of Geoff Gilmore's departure.

The popular and highly respected Cooper joined Sundance Institute in 1989 and will serve as the festival's artistic director leading programming and strategic growth and will oversee such activities as content production, online initiatives and key national and international partnerships.

Cooper previously served as director of creative development for the Sundance Institute and director of programming at the festival. 'He's one of the good guys,' a source said. 'This is such a great time for change and innovation.'

Among Cooper's achievements were fostering the development of the New Frontier On Main fusion of contemporary art, technology and the moving image, as well as enhancing the website and leading the initiative to distribute short films through partnerships with iTunes, Netflix and Xbox 360.

Last year he was instrumental in engaging Blue State Digital, the architects of President Obama's online campaign, to connect with the Institute's film and theatre alumni, and played a key role in enhancing donor communication and recruiting new Institute and festival supporters.

In addition to programming the Sundance Institute At BAM series, since 2005 Cooper has spearheaded The Sundance Institute Art House Project, a national initiative to connect regional audiences from 18 arthouse cinemas across the US with Sundance films and film-makers.

'When we established the festival, it was always with two goals in mind: supporting new artists and inspiring new audiences,' Sundance Institute president and founder Robert Redford said. 'Cooper has never lost sight of these goals. He brings to the position an infectious enthusiasm as well as a deep understanding of the Sundance brand and culture. Forward thinking, he is a natural choice of succession to lead the festival into the 21st century.'

'The trustees and I are very pleased that Cooper has agreed to serve as the festival's new director,' Sundance Institute executive director Ken Brecher said. 'To have such an innovative leader who is very much in tune with the needs and interests of today's film-makers is invaluable.'

'This is a tremendous opportunity not just for me but for the entire programming team,' Cooper said. 'Our industry is at a crossroads: innovative technology and global accessibility are making film-making wildly creative while, at the same time, traditional funding and distribution models are being challenged. Never has our festival been more relevant. I am honoured to accept this position and ready to get to work on shaping the festival of the future.'

Last month Geoff Gilmore announced he was stepping down after 19 years at the helm and relocating to New York to serve as chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises.