Sundance Film Fest 2009: Record Economic Impact

June 17, 2009 — The 2009 Sundance Film Festival generated an overall economic impact of a record $92.1 million for the State of Utah, supported close to 2,000 jobs, generated over $18 million in media exposure and provided millions in tax revenue according to a recent economic and demographic study conducted by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the David Eccles School of Business (BEBR). The findings, announced today by the nonprofit Sundance Institute, were generated using an economic impact model known as RIMS II, developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis. 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival, which is held annually in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

Since 1994, the Sundance Film Festival has brought in more than $550 million in economic activity to the State of Utah.

Economic Activity* in Utah for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival

$92 million value added
40,291 Film Festival attendees
1,968 jobs supported
The amount of state tax revenue generated by the 2009 Sundance Film Festival was $3,986,950.
Festival attendees spent $34,579,698 on accommodations
Festival attendees spent $14,976,306 on meals
Festival attendees spent $4,693,682 on transportation
Festival attendees spent $7,919,051 on sports and recreation
Festival attendees spent $4,015,870 on discretionary items
*These figures do not include spending on airfare; private dinners, parties and receptions held by the film industry, Festival sponsors or other entities without affiliation to Sundance Institute.

The 2009 Sundance Festival attracted an estimated 40,291 visitors, of which 66% (or 26,592) were from out of state or abroad. As festival organizers predicted, due to effects of the global financial crisis this figure is down 11 percent from the estimated 45,056 people who attended in 2008. The largest share of nonresident attendees traveled from California, followed by New York and Florida.

“I am proud of the Sundance Institute's contributions to arts and culture on the national and international stage. These numbers demonstrate that the Sundance Film Festival plays a vital role as an economic driver within the State of Utah, supporting job growth, generating tax revenue and adding value to the State's commitment to tourism, “ said Jill Miller, Managing Director, Sundance Institute. “Broadly speaking, this data illustrates the vital role of arts in society, not only in terms of fostering dialogue but also as a contributor to economic success.”

2009 Sundance Film Festival Presenting Sponsors were Entertainment Weekly, HP and Honda.

Sundance Film Festival also brings a major commercial benefit in the extensive national and international media coverage it attracts. From December 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009 the Festival generated over 8,000 print and online articles in wire services, the world's most widely read newspapers and top-circulated consumer magazines in over 90 countries, for a value of over $8.3 million. The world's major television networks and broadcast services covered part or the entire 10-day event, generating news and entertainment segments valued well over $10 million. 1,040 members of the press traveled to Utah for the Festival.

Additional exposure for Utah is generated by the Sundance Film Festival website and printed materials. From September 17, 2008 through February 1, 2009, the website received 1,733,101 total visits (or hits) and 1,252,137 unique visits. Visitors came from 210 countries with the majority of site visitors from the Unites States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and France. The 2009 Sundance Film Festival program guide and catalog were distributed to over 50,000 people from 136 countries through the mail, at information booths and, via individual iPhones at quickmobile/sundance.

Through its films, panels music events and school programs, Sundance Film Festival brings exposure to an array of cultures and political and social issues. The Festival also inspires visits to Utah by leading CEOs, dignitaries and cultural attachés: two prominent business receptions hosted by the Utah World Trade Center at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival were standing room only.

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival will be held January 21 – January 31.

Facts and Figures

The economic impact of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival compares favorably with the impacts generated in 2008.

Spending by nonresidents attending the 2009 Sundance Film Festival totaled $62,029,563 – an increase of 9 percent over the of $60.7 million spent during the 2008 festival, despite the drop in overall attendance.

The economic impacts of spending by the Sundance Institute to produce the event include $11,638,117 in Value-Added, $6,841,373 in earnings and 239 jobs. These figures reflect expenditures made in Utah with money that originated outside the state.

The largest increases occurred in spending for accommodations ($4.4 million) and food and beverages ($2.3 million). The single largest expenditure was lodging, which accounted for 52 percent of total per person spending and averaged $858.84. Total per person spending on meals was $371.86, followed by spending on sporting and recreation activities ($196.61) and automobile rental ($102.73).

Researchers surveyed out-of-state visitors who attended the 10-day event in Park City, Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. Attendees at Sundance Resort screenings were not surveyed.


In 2009, under the advisement of the U of U BEBR, Sundance decided to pursue an analysis of the economic impact the Festival has on the State of Utah. This report, while much more difficult (involving the meticulous collection of spending and revenue data) is a more accurate reflection of the monetary effect the Sundance Film Festival has on the State. The survey was performed by representatives of the U of U BEBR with handheld data recorders.

The economic impact study measures the impact of the Festival on jobs, wages and value-added (or gross state product) on the state of Utah during a two-week period in January 2009. It also provides an estimate of the fiscal impacts that result from the increased economic activity generated by the festival during the study period. Fiscal impacts refer to the effects of the Festival on state and local tax collections.

Estimating the economic impact of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival was a two-part process. The first phase of the study estimated the economic impacts of direct expenditures made by the Institute to produce the Festival. The second phase estimated the impacts of spending by Festival attendees.