Hospitality & Tourism  June 30, 2024

Editorial: Kudos to civic groups, governments for pitch to lure Sundance festival

Government, educational and civic leaders from Boulder and Colorado should be commended for joining forces to attract the Sundance Film Festival to the city by the Flatirons.

Sundance has been soliciting bids from cities across the country — more than 15 were known to have applied — seeking a new location.

Boulder jumped at the chance.

As BizWest managing editor Lucas High reported June 20, a coalition of groups — including Visit Boulder, also called the the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Boulder Chamber, the city of Boulder; the University of Colorado Boulder; the Stanley Film Center and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade — responded to a request for proposals for relocation of the Sundance from Park City, Utah.

But the coalition didn’t stop there.

“In support of the Boulder RFP, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved $1.5 million in state incentives from the EDC’s strategic fund to help lure the world-renowned festival,” High reported. “State and local officials expect matching funds from other sources to exceed that total. Among the groups pledging to contribute are the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media, the Colorado Tourism Office and Colorado Creative Industries.”

Such unanimity demonstrates the “no-brainer” positive effects of securing such a prestigious festival.

The potential economic benefits are enormous. The 2023 Sundance Film Festival contributed more than $118 million to Utah’s economy, High reported, and brought in more than 21,000 out-of-state visitors and created 1,608 jobs that paid Utah workers $63 million in wages, according to OEDIT. 

Indirect economic benefits are estimated to total another $30 million to $50 million.

Boulder boasts many advantages, including proximity to Denver and Denver International Airport, its scenic beauty, a thriving arts community, the university and an environmental mindset.

And new hotels — including the Limelight Conference Center and Hotel on the CU campus, including 250 rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space — will help house Sundance attendees, as will a large inventory of hotel rooms in surrounding cities.

Boulder has at least one more advantage: ties to Sundance founder Robert Redford, who worked as a janitor at The Sink, an iconic restaurant in Boulder’s University Hill district, while he attended CU.

And Redford’s son Jamie and daughter Shauna both graduated from CU, from which Redford received an honorary degree in 1987.

Will that history help Boulder secure Sundance? That remains to be seen. But we should be grateful to the groups that assembled to give the city its best shot.

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