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Sundance: Evolution of a Festival

Posted January 27, 2010 to photo album "Sundance: Evolution of a Festival"

As park of Movie City: Park City, FilmInFocus’ Nick Dawson looks at ten years that have shaped the Sundance Film Festival.

1978: The First Year
1981: A Move to Park City
1985: A New Partnership Fosters Fresh Talent
1989: Soderbergh's Sex Spells Success
1991: Emergence of the Sundance Generation
1994: Low Budget, High Demand
1996: A Record-Breaking Year
1999: The Year of the Witch
2004: A Classic Sundance Year
2010: New Beginnings, New Directions
1981: A Move to Park City

1981: A Move to Park City

1981 was a year of change at the Utah / US Film Festival. When the fest unspooled its third edition, it was in a new location and in a new time slot, leaving behind Salt Lake City in September for Park City (30 miles to the East) in January. The geographical and temporal move had been suggested by one of the festival’s board members, the late actor-director Sydney Pollack. Pollack’s contention was that holding a film festival in a ski resort in winter (traditionally a dead time for fests) would be irresistible to Hollywood types, and that they would inevitably comes in their droves. There was also further change afoot as the event’s title was changed to the United States Film and Video Festival, in order to reflect advances in cinematic technology. (Ironically, in 1981 the festival didn’t have the ability to show videos, only films!) Despite all this forward movement, the 1981 festival ended up putting the organization $100,000 in debt – in large part due to heavy snow during the fest which had impacted negatively on attendance – however the securing of loans and further funding ensured this would not be the event’s swansong.