Sundance Film Festival drops Ogden location, shifts to new programs

Wednesday , July 13, 2016 - 12:00 PM18 comments

BECKY CAIRNS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — It’s a wrap on Ogden’s starring role in the Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Institute has decided there will no longer be January Sundance Film Festival events at Peery’s Egyptian Theater.

The Ogden extension of the Park City-based festival will be replaced by a variety of local screenings during the summer and fall, said Sarah Pearce, managing director of the Sundance Institute.

“We are moving to a more community-based program plan for Ogden,” Pearce said in a phone interview Tuesday with the Standard-Examiner.

Volunteers and patrons of the Ogden screenings were notified of the decision in an email Wednesday.

The number of films that will play locally in 2017 and how they will be presented hasn’t been determined, Pearce said. The movies will “most likely” be ones featured at the festival, she said.

“We don’t really have a full plan yet,” she said, but added the institute will work with Peery’s Egyptian Theater and Visit Ogden to brainstorm options “to find the sweet spot for programming up there.”

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“We want to get the word out so everybody can adjust their plans for January,” Pearce said.

The email states the nonprofit institute must evaluate its programs to ensure they have the best possible impact and sometimes “we have to make tough changes.”

Story continues below photo.

“After evaluating our work in Ogden and discussing options with our local partners, we have decided to shift our programming to provide community screenings in Ogden outside of the festival season,” the email states.

Offering screenings at other times of year — in collaboration with various local organizations — will be a better way to target programming specifically to the community, Pearce said.

And a bonus, she added, is admission to community screenings will be free.

As to whether attendance has declined at Ogden’s Sundance screenings, Pearce said, “We have had a bit of that, but that’s not really the reason for this.”

The decision is a matter of wanting to be engaged with the community in a different way, she said, adding, “We’re hoping we’ll actually be discovering new audiences through this shift in programming.”

Ross Reeder, director of sales and marketing for Peery’s Egyptian Theater, said the Ogden theater has hosted Sundance screenings for about 15 years. Although Reeder said he is disappointed his theater’s role in the January festival has been canceled, he looks forward to new programming possibilities.

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The theater will be able to partner with community groups to bring in Sundance films throughout the year, Reeder said. The move will allow Ogden residents who thought it was too difficult to get Sundance tickets in the past to see screenings, he said.

Pearce said she recognizes “there will be some disappointment” in the community over the decision but added Sundance supporters are encouraged to attend or volunteer at festival events in Park City and Salt Lake City.

“We hope that the Ogden community will come out and engage with us in the summer and fall in this more targeted way,” she said.

She added, “We are so appreciative and thankful for our wonderful relationship with Peery’s Egyptian. They have been such a wonderful partner for us. … We’re glad we can continue in this new way.”

Contact reporter Becky Cairns at 801-625-4276 or bcairns@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @bccairns or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SEbeckycairns.

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