Boulder submits “strong” bid to host Sundance Film Festival in 2027

Colorado film boosters on Thursday announced a plan to lure the world-renowned Sundance Film Festival to Boulder in 2027.

“The Sundance Film Festival has a deep history in the Mountain West, and we can think of no better home for its next act than Colorado,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “With the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop and our deep commitment to the arts, we can help the Festival achieve even greater success while preserving what makes it special, building on Colorado’s iconic creative brand and our strong arts community.”

Officials at the 44-year-old film festival, which for the past 40 years has taken place each January in Park City, Utah, began considering new host locations for the event — founded by Robert Redford — in April. Boulder responded in May, along with several other cities nationally, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). Their official application is due Friday, June 21.

The Colorado Office of Film Television and Media (COFTM) and the Business Funding and Incentives division of the OEDIT joined with Visit Boulder to develop the proposal, which touts Boulder as a prime location to grow the fest’s footprint “while engaging diverse audiences.”

OEDIT this morning approved a one-time, $1.5 million incentive as part of the proposal. More pledges have come from the City of Boulder (for an unspecified amount), OEDIT ($325,000 — which includes $250,000 from COFTM over five years), and one-time payments from the Colorado Tourism Office ($50,000) and Colorado Creative Industries ($25,000). The goal is to double the incentive money, at the very least, officials said, putting the overall amount at more than $4 million.

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Hosting the festival would create hundreds of jobs, officials said, and benefit local businesses.

“Colorado’s creative industries contribute $16.8 billion to our economy every year and account for nearly 4% of jobs,” said Eve Lieberman, executive director of OEDIT, in a statement. “Hosting the prestigious Sundance Film Festival will grow the sector’s contributions to our state while raising Colorado’s profile across the globe, benefiting the many small businesses that depend on tourism and out-of-state visitors for their livelihoods.”

Like all live events, Sundance took several years off after COVID and went all-digital, but returned in 2023 with 175 films in competition, according to Sundance. For decades the festival has been an important stage to debut independent features, a market for snapping them up, and a buzz-building event for awards shows.

The event in 2023 drew more than 130,000 in-person attendees to watch more than 90 films and 60 shorts, according to NBC affiliate KLS 5 Utah. The event contributed about $118 million to Utah’s economy last year while creating 1,608 jobs for residents and $63 million in wages, according to OEDIT. More than 21,000 visitors came from out of state.

“When the Sundance Institute invited us to explore Boulder as a potential location for the Film Festival, we recognized an incredible opportunity to contribute to a longstanding artistic tradition while boosting visitation and local business support during a traditionally quiet time of year …,” said Charlene Hoffman, CEO of Visit Boulder, in a statement.

The 2025 and 2026 Sundance Film Festivals will be held in Park City as planned, according to events organizer Northstar Meetings Group. The 2025 festival is scheduled to take place in Park City and Salt Lake City from Jan. 23 through Feb. 2.

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Its contract with the city expires at that time, which is why the festival is taking other bids.

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