- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A new University of Utah study shows attendees at the Sundance Film Festival are getting younger and eschewing hotels to stay at friends’ homes.

The study released this week found the star-studded Park City-based event brought $83.4 million worth of economic impact to Utah this year. That’s down from about $86.4 million the year before, even though attendance was up.

The Robert Redford-helmed festival attracted about 46,000 people this year, compared to about 45,000 last year, according to the study from the university’s business school.

But those attendees spent less money on hotels. The average Sundance attendee paid $121 a day to stay in Utah, which is about $20 a day less than last year’s average. The lodging drop accounts for most of the dip in spending, researchers said in the study released Thursday. More visitors reported staying with family and friends or going outside the event’s pricey epicenter in the Park City and Deer Valley area.

A larger portion of attendees were also Utah residents, and people who live in-state typically spend only a small fraction of what tourists do.

Sundance travelers did drop more cash on other things, though. Meal spending was up $1.2 million and retail shopping bills increased nearly $2 million.

The study revealed another, possibly related trend. Festival attendees skewed younger this year. The portion of the audience aged between 19 and 35 ticked up to 37 percent, compared to 32 percent last year.

That “means there’s another generation that wants to gather and hear these stories,” said Sarah Pearce, co-managing director of the Sundance Institute. She said the increase in younger viewers can be attributed in part to a new a year-round Sundance initiative called Ignite that’s aimed at college-age people from 19 to 25.

Pearce said some fluctuation in the numbers is natural and the economic impact this year remained above the five-year average of $79 million, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1HfMxJx). That number is the total spending by festival attendees and the money the institute spends to setup and run the event.

The study is based on about 800 random surveys of people at the festival and numbers reported by the Sundance Institute. The 2015 festival ran for 10 days starting in late January.

Now in its 31st year, Sundance has grown to showcase talent in art, music, television and new media as well as film. The festival takes about a year to setup and supported 1,350 jobs this year. Films are shown at 16 theaters in Park City, Salt Lake City, Sundance ski resort and Ogden.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com


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