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Park City, Utah Rides High During Sundance Film Festival

According to Amy Kersey, communications manager at the Park City Chamber/CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau), “The Sundance Film Festival has put Park City on the map in a lot of ways. In some circles we’re known for world-class skiing, while in others we’re known for Sundance.”

“Park City tends to transform during the festival”, Kersey said. It’s no wonder, since Sundance is the United States’ largest independent film event. The festivities take place every year in this eco-friendly former mining town that’s currently home to three ski resorts, attracting over 45,000 filmmakers, A-listers, cinephiles and hangers-on from around the globe.

Sundance Institute has held the event every January since 1985. The festival will screen about 200 films as well as hosting panel discussions and musical performances in Park City and various satellite locations. jOBS, a biopic starring Ashton Kutcher as the late Apple founder, will premiere at Sundance before its April release.

PRNewser recently checked in with Kersey to find out how the Park City Chamber/Bureau gets involved in the town’s biggest public relations extravaganza. Click through for a look behind the scenes from a communications, digital and brand perspective (plus a brief preview of the action).

A thorough approach to a high profile event. Sundance Institute organizes and promotes the film festival, which quickly sells out every year. While the Park City Chamber/Bureau doesn’t play a direct role in the event, they pitch in on all fronts to maximize the experience for all guests. The town of Park City’s real purpose is to serve as a scenic backdrop, but Kersey notes that the town’s general economy and “local businesses” benefit “greatly.”

An effective partnership and clear guest communications. Sundance Institute’s PR team handles media and consumer relations for the festival while the Park City Chamber/Bureau acts as another resource fielding visitors’ requests.

Park City offers links related to the festival online and via its mobile-enabled website. The site’s webcam shows a view of Main Street designed to highlight its small-town, big-name appeal for potential tourists; organizers hope its sunsets might even inspire some to move there!

The town’s official blog is another great information source. In a recent post, a seasoned Park City resident and CVB employee offers a must-read Sundance ‘survival guide’ to help festivalgoers get with the (very cold) program. As Kersey puts it, “Many locals like to stick around for the energy the festival brings.”

Digital and social media, mountain style. Wi-fi and mobile reception may be spotty during the event, but that doesn’t stop Park City and Sundance from making their presence known on all major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. During the event, both organizations share the latest photos, videos and posts–and select events will be livestreamed as well.

The festival’s New Frontier showcase offers multimedia installations, and Sundance created a special mobile app for attendees to discover the program’s films and events. Curious festival-goers won’t find A-list party locations, however (event organizers understandably keep those spots secret).

A focus on luxury brands (but pop-ups rule). The film festival turns Park City into a luxury brand mecca, with several exclusive pop-up clubs and product exhibits–Kersey said many business owners lease out their space for companies to host private parties and events. For example, Acura will rent out the Park City Museum, and exclusive resorts-based club brand Nikki Beach will briefly occupy the Sky Lodge’s rooftop lounge.

Resorts West will also host a two-day invitation-only House of Luxury showcase in its Dream Home at Deer Valley ski resort. The venue will feature new products such as the 2013 Rolls Royce Ghost, Zai handcrafted Swiss skis, Zeal Optics’ HD GPS goggles and Vixen Vodka from Utah.

Most local bars stay open as usual, attracting patrons with novel offerings. For example, Deer Valley’s St. Regis Bar features nightly ‘champagne sabering’ on its outdoor patio. Park City’s High West Distillery and Saloon is the “world’s only ski-in gastro-distillery” (though fewer customers opt to ski out afterwards). And for festival-goers who’d rather drink incognito, there’s always the No Name Saloon.

The best scene may be on the slopes. The presence of so many non-skiers in town means fewer crowds–and perhaps even a few celebrities–on the trails. Park City’s Quick S.T.A.R.T (ski today and ride today) program, as advertised in Park City’s current TV campaign, encourages skiers and boarders arriving at nearby Salt Lake City airport to convert their airline boarding passes into free same-day lift tickets.

For those planning to venture to the Sundance Film Festival, here’s our abridged version of the local CW:

  • Pack snowshoes, not stilettos
  • Leave your iPad in the lodge
  • Don’t chase after Ashton Kutcher on Main Street or everyone will see you on the webcam
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