The film festival that became the Sundance Film Festival didn’t start out in Park City. But Park City has been its home since before there was a Sundance Institute. Here’s a timeline:
1978 • The Utah/U.S. Film Festival started in September 1978 at Salt Lake City’s Trolley Corners. Though mostly focused on classic films, it included an eight-movie independent-film section.
1980 • The late Sydney Pollack — a friend of Robert Redford, who directed Redford in “Jeremiah Johnson,” “The Way We Were,” “Out of Africa” and other films — suggested the festival move to Park City. “You’d be the only film festival in the world held in a ski resort during ski season, and Hollywood would beat down the door to attend,” Pollack told organizers, according to early programmer Lory Smith, in his 1999 book, “Party in a Box.”
1981 • The festival relaunched in Park City in January 1981, and Redford founded the nonprofit Sundance Institute later that year.
1985 • The institute took over operations of the U.S. Film Festival. All the screenings were in two theaters: The Egyptian and the Holiday Village Cinemas.
1987 • A third theater was added, at Prospector Square.
1991 • The name Sundance Film Festival became official.
1995 • The renovated Jim Santy Auditorium at Park City Library Center became the festival’s fourth venue.
1997 • The festival’s fifth theater opened, in the Yarrow Hotel (now the Doubletree).
1998 • Park City’s largest venue, the 1,300-seat Eccles Center Theatre, showed festival movies for the first time, starting with the Gwyneth Paltrow film “Sliding Doors.”
2004 • The festival’s opening night gala, for years a Salt Lake City event, moved to Park City — with a screening of the surfing documentary “Riding Giants.”
2010 • The elusive British street artist Banksy debuted his first movie, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” at Sundance. He tagged an outbuilding near Park City’s McPolin Barn and painted three of his trademark stencils in the Main Street area. The Main Street art is preserved, making Park City a global art-tourist destination.
2017 • Park City saw its biggest traffic jam ever, caused by some 8,000 protesters taking part in the March for Women rally during the festival, the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
2020 • The festival drew an estimated 116,800 attendees to screenings and events in Park City, Salt Lake City and at the Sundance Resort. Utahns and visitors from other states spent an estimated $150 million, according to Salt Lake City research firm Y2 Analytics.
2021: For the first time in four decades, the festival will not be held in Park City — forced online and onto screens in 20 other cities by the coronavirus pandemic.