These cities are trying to lure Sundance away from Utah

Six have confirmed that they are making a bid, while others are just being speculated about.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Sundance Film Festival kicks into high gear along Main Street in Park City on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. With Park City's contract for the festival running out after the 2026 festival, Sundance Institute is accepting bids from cities across the country to host the festival starting in 2027 — while Utah is hoping to keep the event in the state.

Cities from across the country are putting in their bids to be the new host of the Sundance Film Festival — while Utah officials are working to keep the event, which started in the Beehive State in 1978, from going anywhere.

The Sundance Institute announced in mid-April that it is considering its options, since its contract with Park City expires after the 2026 festival. The deadline is Wednesday for cities to ask Sundance for specifics about what the institute wants from a host city. Then a two-month window for cities to enter their proposals opens, concluding at the end of June.

Here are six cities whose aspirations have been made public, and two more that have been mentioned as possible contenders:

San Francisco

(Jim Wilson | The New York Times) Alamo Square in San Francisco, Sept. 20, 2023.

The city by the bay is “moving forward” with its bid to attract Sundance, Manijeh Fata, executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission, told the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco supports an acclaimed film festival that ended on Sunday.

It also is home to the Redford Center, the nonprofit created by Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford and his son Jamie (who died in 2020), dedicated to supporting filmmakers telling stories about the environment.


(Christian Monterrosa | The New York Times) The sun rises over downtown Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, March 12, 2024.

Georgia’s capital city, with a population of nearly half a million people, is putting in a bid to land Sundance, the producer of the Atlanta Film Festival told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Georgia boasts one of the country’s more generous incentive programs for movie and TV production — which is why the Georgia Film Commission’s peach logo can be seen in the credits for everything from Tyler Perry comedies to Marvel superhero movies.


(Stephen B. Morton | The New York Times) The streets of Savannah, Ga., on Dec. 18, 2020.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported that another Georgia city, Savannah, is considering a bid for the festival. Savannah currently hosts the SCAD Film Festival. It also is where Robert Redford, as a director, shot the 2000 golf drama “The Legend of Bagger Vance.”


(Jenn Ackerman | The New York Times) People walk in the skyway above the streets in downtown Minneapolis, Jan. 30, 2019.

Several news outlets in Minnesota reported that Minneapolis is putting its name in the running for the festival, and the Minneapolis City Council last week approved a proposal to start the bid process.

Movie fans who hope to dodge Park City’s cold weather would not find relief in the Twin Cities, where the average high temperatures in January are around 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Santa Fe

(Ramsay de Give | The New York Times) A man sits in the shade of an umbrella in Santa Fe Plaza in Santa Fe, N.M., on Monday, July 17, 2023.

The New Mexico city is interested in attracting the festival, Jennifer LaBar-Tapia, director of the Santa Fe Film Office, confirmed to the Santa Fe New Mexican on Monday. The Hollywood trade publication Deadline mentioned Santa Fe as a contender last summer.

Deadline noted that New Mexico draws a fair share of film productions, but added that the city would need a few more movie screens to accommodate the traffic a film festival brings. Sundance already has a connection with Santa Fe, holding its annual Native Lab for Indigenous storytellers there this week.


(Jeffrey T. Barnes | Associated Press file photo) The Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y.

Sundance in upstate New York? That’s what the mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, said was possible during his State of the City address Wednesday, WIVB reported.

“With our community’s growing film industry and a significant number of great venues, we believe we are uniquely positioned to take this world-class event to the next level,” Brown said.

Brown also said he was consulting with Buffalo native Tom Fontana, an Emmy-winning writier and producer behind such shows as “Oz” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

Buffalo was where much of Robert Redford’s 1984 baseball drama “The Natural” was filmed.


(Nolis Anderson | The New York Times) A Chicago Transit Authority train makes its way over the Chicago River on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2023.

The institute is throwing a three-day mini-event, Sundance Film Festival x Chicago, in late June, which officials there are touting as a way to showcase the Windy City’s connections to independent film.

However, Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips cited other critics there who are wary about Sundance entering a landscape where two festivals — the Chicago International Film Festival and the Chicago Critics Film Festival — already rely on Sundance’s January slates for much of their programming.

St. Louis

(Evelyn Hockstein | The New York Times) The Gateway Arch in St. Louis in 2009.

No word on whether the Missouri city is mounting a serious bid for the festival. But columnist Collin Preciado, in the Riverfront Times, wrote a tongue-in-cheek pitch, in the form of an open letter to Robert Redford.

Among Preciado’s reasons that Sundance should choose St. Louis: Proximity to the Gateway Arch, and the idea that the city “could kind of use a win right now.”

The home team

When Sundance made its announcement, Utah officials expressed confidence the state would convince the institute to keep the festival in Park City, the festival’s home since 1981, and/or Salt Lake City, where the first Utah/US Film Festival was held in 1978.

As Virginia Pearce, director of the Utah Film Commission, put it after the announcement, “with over 40 years of demonstrated success as the home of the Sundance Film Festival, we are well-positioned to continue this partnership.”

Not bidding

Cleveland has opted not to submit information to Sundance, said David Gilbert, president and CEO of the tourism group Destination Cleveland, according to the news outlet Axios. Gilbert noted that the city is already home to the Cleveland International Film Festival, which finished its annual run in early April.

Axios also reported that officials in Denver missed the deadline to request information from Sundance about making a bid.

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