Sundance Selects 15 Cities To Make Bids For Festival’s Potential Move; Park City & Utah Pledge “Team Effort” To Keep Festival

EXCLUSIVE: The Sundance Film Festival is looking South for a potential new home, as well as in its backyard.

Along with Park City, UT, Atlanta and fellow Georgia cities Athens and Savannah are among the 15 cities that have made the cut to put in serious bids for the Robert Redford-founded indie gathering.

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First reported exclusively by Deadline last year as a player to snag Sundance, New Mexico’s Santa Fe is also in the running in the Request for Proposal process. Across the rest of the nation, San Francisco is a contender to be the new home of the SFF come 2027 as are jurisdictions in upstate New York and North Carolina, I hear.

Representatives for Sundance did not respond to request for comment from Deadline on the final 15 and where things stand now. If and when they do, this post will be update. However, one festival insider did tell Deadline that “this is a pageant, and host committees are reaching out, looking for an angle and way in.”

“It will come down to money and venues, but mainly money,” he added.

Having been in and around Park City for four decades, Sundance currently has a contract with the resort town to see it through the 2025 fest and the 2026 SFF.

There is a school of thought that Sundance doesn’t really want to leave its long-time home.

The opinion expressed to Deadline by various sources in Park City, Hollywood and elsewhere is that instead the festival is seeking a better deal that addresses the issues of growth and change, both in the overall industry and the festival itself, that have plagued Sundance in the last few years. This year saw fewer films, less venues and a decline in attendance for SFF, with visitors and locals alike complaining Park City was too expensive, too crowed and many of the premieres already had homes on the streamers.

With that, Park City and the state of Utah aren’t letting the hundreds of millions in revenue, the prestige and the annual attention of a lot of the world’s media exit without putting in a big bid themselves. Last week, a joint Utah Sundance Film Festival Host Committee with Governor Spencer Cox at the helm was unveiled.

“The Utah Sundance Film Festival Host Committee thanks the Sundance Institute for the opportunity to proceed to the next step in their RFP process for the 2027 film festival and beyond,” said Virginia Pearce, Director, Utah Film Commission director Virginia Pearce in a statement.

“We’re committed to collaboratively re-imagining future festivals, inspiring film enthusiasts, and preserving the Festival’s connection to its home state,” Pearce went on to say in what is clearly a wider approach to Sundance than just Park City itself. “Our shared 40-year growth and success have greatly contributed to Utah’s culture and economy and have fostered a proven partnership in the film industry. Most importantly, we believe that continuing in Utah will best assure the Sundance Film Festival’s continued growth and long-term success.”

Even before the relocation bids were made this year, it has been whispered since 2023 that Sundance was looking at moving the bulk of the festival to Salt Lake City, which now has a high-tech international airport, and designating Park City as a satellite of the gathering – which actually was the case decades ago for a spell.

Reading between the lines, that idea seems to have some roots now with Utah stakeholders.

“This is a team effort, not just Park City,” the town’s very pro-Sundance mayor Nann Worel told Deadline today. “We believe our history as the 40-year home to the Festival, strong partnerships across the region, and world-class natural assets give Utah an excellent chance to be selected,” Mayor Worel, who is on the Utah Sundance Film Festival Host Committee declared.

Still, once Sundance made public on April 17 the very badly held secret that it was considering busting a move out of Utah , the wannabes flooded in and turned this into what looks like a real horse race.

Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah
Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah

Having wrapped up its Request for Information submission period on May 1, a Sundance Institute task force, which includes board member and founder scion Amy Redford, then pared down the dozens of candidates. The RFP process started on May 7 and goes until June 21 with board members and Sundance staffers then touring the bidders much in the same way IOC officials bask in the glow of host city hopefuls for the Olympics.

A final decision is expected internally around the end of September. That decision is likely to be made public at the end of Sundance 2025 around February 2.

“Sundance has to evolve, the whole industry does, if that’s in Park City, Utah, Atlanta or somewhere else, it’s time,” a well-positioned stakeholder said Wednesday. “Let see what the others have to offer,” she added.

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