• Rolling with Sundance Since the Beginning

    January 16, 2019 | News
  • It was 1977 or thereabouts when I enrolled in a Media Studies class to fulfill a general education requirement at the University of Utah. One choice subject? The “Dollars Trilogy,” Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood; A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).  My amateur movie reviews respectably contemplated lighting, camera placement, symbolism and historical phenomena. It never occurred to me that a person could do that for a living.

    In Brides of 1941, Robin (the main character) finds herself in the right place and time in 1939. As I mention in the book, it was one of the most remarkable years in Hollywood history for releasing quality, iconic movies. Robin held her place beneath the cinema marquee, boosting ticket sales for first-run classics: Confessions of a Nazi Spy, It Could Happen to You, Man About Town, Grand Jury Secrets, Daughter’s Courageous, Undercover Doctor, Wife Husband and Friend, and The Wizard of Oz, to name a few.

    It’s why Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide rests on my desk dogeared and highlighted tracking Robin’s path through its pages.

    That bit of the past prompts me to pick up on the topic of SUNDANCE, because it’s that time of year in Park City, and I’ve coincidentally been around through iterations of name changes: Utah/U.S. Film Festival, United States Film and Video Festival, Sundance/United States Film Festival to just plain SUNDANCE.

    It all started late summer in Salt Lake, 1978 when it was known as the Utah/U.S. Film Festival. Three years later, in January 1981 the fledgling fest opened in Park City, where I lived and worked for the Chamber of Commerce at the time. To move the festival to Park City in the middle of winter was a strategic economic business decision all the way around. It would invite tourism dollars in the (then) post-holiday travel slump and worked equally well as a hook for film industry professionals. Since the 1930s people bought in to the glamour of skiing depicted in cinema. I make this point in Brides: “to discuss the sport, and more importantly to see and be seen doing the sport, defined a person as rather upscale and outdoorsy, then and still today.”

    One of my hats at the Chamber was to support special events, often enlisting and organizing volunteers to help. We relied on telephone land lines and kept promises. In 1982, The Egyptian Theatre was the main festival ticket outlet in town. Volunteers were assigned shift by shift. When the box office was scheduled to open, I popped up to Main Street to be sure all was in order. My volunteer helper was there, but helpless. Even though ticket prices were just $3.50 for individual film screenings ($30 for a package of ten), it was impossible to do her job without a cash box.