Film festivals are not only popular, they can also prove very profitable for the cities and states that host them. Take the Sundance Film Festival, for example. According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, this year’s festival generated $83.4 million in economic impact for the state of Utah; supported 1,350 jobs; generated $40.6 million in wages, salaries and employer-paid benefits, and produced $7 million in state and local tax revenue. The report found that over the past five years, the festival has generated a whopping $391 million in economic impact for the state, created 7,300 jobs, and generated more than $32.5 million in state and local tax revenue.
“As Utah’s largest annual international event, the Sundance Film Festival provides a significant boost to our economy and has become an undeniable showcase for the state’s stunning landscape and business-friendly climate,” said Gov. Gary R. Herbert.
Festival attendees spent nearly $62.2 million in the state during the 10 days of this year’s festival, which was held in Park City in January. Of this amount, out-of-state visitors spent almost $57.2 million, with locals spending $5 million. Lodging was the single largest source of spending for out-of-state visitors, accounting for nearly $29 million in revenue for local innkeepers. Spending on food and beverages totaled over $15 million (up $1.2 million from the previous year), while retail purchases totaled over $9.1 million – up $1.9 million from 2014.
The Sundance Institute, which spent $17.6 million to produce this year’s film festival, said it saw additional value in the media’s coverage of the event. The Institute valued the worldwide media exposure of the festival, which was attended by some 1,130 journalists from 17 countries, at $66.7 million. “Between the announcement of the film program in December 2014, through wrap-up articles in February 2015,” Sundance said, “the festival generated more than 48,300 stories in print, online and on television. In total, publicity value from the Festival totaled more than $66.7 million.” Based on that calculus, this story is worth another $1,380.95.
Sundance said that the festival attracted 30,892 out-of-state visitors and 3,735 international visitors from 30 countries, accounting for two-thirds of all attendees. “Of the out-of-state attendees, 8,650 indicated this was their first visit to Utah; 27,185 said they traveled to Utah specifically to attend the festival, and 15,137 indicated they would visit Utah again during the next year – showing that the festival’s tourism benefits extend throughout the year.”
This year’s festival also showed a noticeable increase in younger attendees. According to Sundance, people between 19 and 25 years old accounted for almost 14% of all festival attendees in 2015, which was up from 12.5% in 2014, while people between the ages of 26 and 35 years old accounted for approximately 23%, which was up from 19.8% in 2014.
“These numbers indicate a strong and growing interest among the next generation of film enthusiasts, who we work hard to engage,” said Sarah Pearce, managing director of Sundance Institute. “As a nonprofit working to inspire artists and engage audiences, we are pleased to be attracting younger audiences who care about film and will likely be interested in this important medium for a lifetime.”
Not all the news from this year’s festival was good, however. The study, conducted by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the David Eccles School of Business, found that festival attendees spent about $1.7 million less in 2015 than they did in 2014 due to a smaller share of nonresident attendance this year.