Boulder Emerges As Strong Candidate for Film Fest’s New Home 5

When the Sundance Institute revealed back in April that it was thinking about relocating the Sundance Film Festival from its longtime home in Park City, Utah, where it has been held since 1981, it sparked interest and excitement from numerous other cities across America. After all, the fest annually attracts more than 20,000 visitors to Utah, creating hundreds of well-paying jobs for locals and generating more than $100 million for the state.

Now, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, the search — which is being presided over by a task force that includes Amy Redford, a daughter of Sundance godfather and namesake Robert Redford — is coming to a head. Requests for proposals are due on Friday, and a week after that, three finalists — potentially including Park City — will be revealed, with a decision expected by September. If the fest does wind up moving, it would not happen until its 2027 edition, given the terms of its current contract.

Sundance has not disclosed the names of all of the cities that have expressed interest in hosting the fest but knowledgeable sources place the figure at 15. One city that appears to be a particularly strong contender — and from which, THR hears, the fest specifically invited a request for proposal — is Boulder, Colorado. The city at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains formally submitted its pitch on Thursday morning, with an offering of a $1.5 million incentive from the state and more than one-to-one non-state matching funds.

Boulder, like Park City, is a beatific locale in the Mountain West, of comparable size (26 square miles, versus Park City’s 20 square miles) and proximity to a major international airport (Denver International is about a 45-minute drive from Boulder, as Salt Lake International is from Park City). Boulder has a much larger population than Park City (some 108,000, versus approximately 8,400, not least because of the University of Colorado Boulder, which counts more than 37,000 students).

The Redford family has close personal ties to Boulder. Robert attended CU-Boulder — and worked as a janitor at a local restaurant — before embarking on his Hollywood career. His son, Jamie, and daughter Shauna both graduated from the university in 1985, and Robert returned to campus in 1987 to collect an honorary degree.

Sundance has already partially moved into the area. Earlier this year, the Sundance Institute relocated its Directors Lab from Park City to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, another Colorado city less than an hour from Boulder, thanks in part to financial incentives from Colorado’s state arts office. When that move was announced, longtime Sundance Institute chief and recent Academy honoree Michelle Satter said, “In identifying a host for our Directors Lab, it was essential to find a space that was surrounded by nature for artists to create, had multiple environments for shooting, and could be an environment where artists could leave behind the distractions of everyday life and immerse themselves in their projects.”

The fest has not publicly addressed why it is considering leaving Park City, but it is widely understood that Utah’s extreme positions on LGBTQ rights (the state has implemented anti-gay and anti-trans legislation) are at least partly responsible. The State of Colorado presents no such concerns. In fact, its governor, Jared Polis, who was elected to that job in 2018 and re-elected in 2022, was the first openly gay man ever elected to lead a U.S. state and entered into a same-sex marriage in 2021.

The only immediately apparent potential hurdle of a Boulder bid for Sundance is the fact that the city already has a flourishing film fest. The Boulder International Film Festival, which was co-founded and is co-run by two sisters who live in town, Kathy Beeck and Robin Beeck, has been a much-loved staple of the community for the past 20 years. It takes place each year in late February or early March, just weeks after Sundance is held in late January or early February, and it attracted some 25,000 attendees earlier this year. There would undoubtedly be local resistance to any move that would impact BIFF, but if Sundance does decide it wants to move to Boulder, it is certainly possible that the two events could establish some sort of an alliance that would keep all parties happy.

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