Sundance Film Festival Marquee 1_Photo by Maya Dehlin

Source: Photo by Maya Dehlin

Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Institute has begun the process of exploring potential host locations in the United States for its flagship festival starting in 2027, after residing in Park City, Utah, for nearly 40 years.

While the 2025 (January 23-February 2) and 2026 iterations of Sundance Film Festival will remain in Park City and Salt Lake City, Institute executives are moving to address concerns before the current 13-year contract expires in 2027.

The high cost of travelling to and staying in or around Park City has been cited on numerous occasions by Sundance filmmakers as a drawback, with prohibitive hotel rates often forcing them to say further out of town.

Getting around an increasingly busy ski resort hub during peak season has also made it challenging for festival attendees and skiers. Local hoteliers, restaurateurs and stores have lamented the strain the festival puts on business and transport.

The Institute was given until autumn to notify Park City should it wish to initiate an exploratory process to identify a potential new home. The fact that executives have done so well ahead of schedule is telling.

Park City is expensive and the Institute needs to raise funds and thrive as a non-profit. Last month it was announced Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente was leaving after less than three years in the role. Two new Sundance-branded events are taking place in Mexico City next week and in Chicago in June.

Sundance Institute sources have been keen to point out that the two-step evaluation process announced today does not necessarily mean the festival will leave Park City – the Institute’s key partner and festival host since 1985 – or even Utah. It is understood the participation of the city and state is encouraged.

To that end, Park City Mayor Nann Worel released a statement shortly after the announcement in which she said: ”We appreciate our partnership with Sundance, and we want the festival to remain here for another 40 years… [W]e will work collaboratively with all our state and local partners on next steps.”

Utah Film Commission director Virginia Pearce echoed Worel’s sentiments. ”We see this as an opportunity to reimagine what the future of the festival looks like in Utah,” she said. ”With over 40 years of demonstrated success as the home of the Sundance Film Festival, we are well-positioned to continue this partnership.”

Today (April 17) marks the start of the Request for Information (RFI) phase when any city or community has until May 1 to submit initial proposals including logistical details on subjects like transport infrastructure and theatre count, and learn more about the scope of the role and what a potential partnership could look like.

Following the RFI, a smaller number of potential hosts will be invited to participate in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process running May 7-June 21, when more specific details from the initial proposals will be assessed. This phase will include workshops, site visits, and engagement with staff and the board task force.

A final decision is expected either in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2025. The Institute board, which includes Sundance founder Robert Redford, is involved in the process. Amy Redford is on the task force for the RFI/RFP.

It is also understood that regardless of where the festival will be located from 2027 onwards the Institute, led by acting CEO Amanda Kelso, is insistent it will continue to take place in January as a curtain raiser for the festival calendar. This year’s event drew a record 17,000+ submissions from 153 countries.

“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, Sundance Film Festival and public programming.

“We are looking forward to conversations that centre 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.”