After four years of planning, months of organizing, and days and hours of meticulous setting-up, the internationally acclaimed Sundance Film Festival premiered to rave reviews at the Grand Theatre on Jan. 22.
“We maxed out [capacity] for every film with seating for over 1,100,” says an amazed Richard Scott, Salt Lake Community College interim Dean of Arts and Communication, in response to the success of the Grand Theatre’s first weekend as the new venue for Sundance Film Festival ‘15.
With over a thousand seats, The Grand performed beyond expectations as the second-largest Sundance venue; the Eccles Theatre in Park City holds 187 more patrons.
After less than four years coordination, Interim Dean Scott says SLCC has already met their primary goal to bridge community interest with educational enrichment through this partnership.
As a “weekend” festival, running Friday through Sunday at South City Campus, the event avoids colliding with student needs while complementing student interests; students had the opportunity to attend up to 19 onsite dramatic and documentary film screenings.
“We’ve had amazing crowds. People have been very impressed with the venue and felt it to be a great fit for Sundance,” says Josh Elstein, SLCC Center for Arts and Media coordinator. “It’s great to get the Salt Lake community into our building while they’re enjoying such amazing cinema!”
SLCC President Deneece Huftalin also had positive remarks about the festival.
“Oh, it looks beautiful!”, says Huftalin, as she describes the breath-taking west entrance upon entry from the parking lot and marvels at the lighted trees and student film footage displayed on screens. “I am so proud to be a part of this. It’s incredible!”
In anticipation of her return next weekend, Huftalin says “I am so excited.”
Some events this large can result in some issues, but a team effort was put forth to mitigate any potential problems.
“Actually everything went smoother than we expected,” says Seth Miller, interim director of the Grand Theatre. “Sundance had everything very well organized and I think on the school end things went well. The Grand was the most visible part, but everybody pitched in and stepped up; including Shane Crabtree and Campus Security, Utah Highway Patrol, IT (getting the network ready since last July), and Facilities, who also had to cut 114 new keys. Now that’s a chore to cut that many keys and engrave them!”
Since food is normally not allowed inside the historic theatre, a concern from campus facilities was loose popcorn; it turned out to be a non-issue.
“They have been one of the cleanest groups we’ve had of this magnitude…and without any problems,” says Charles Thompson, facilities night manager at South City Campus. “All in all, I am impressed that the Festival-goers were so calm and without incident.”
Despite the large crowds, the organization of the festival made for a positive experience for guests and staff.
“The custodial staff did a great job of keeping the facility clean,” says Deone Sargent, a South City Campus custodian who worked on the weekend team. “Everyone was well-mannered and the volunteers were a great help getting everyone where they needed to go.”
In terms of the Sundance partnership, Miller says “Everything was well organized and they had lots of volunteers on board.”
He describes the complexity of the lines for both patrons and volunteers, with different types of pass holders and waiting lists. Yet, he feels they ran smoothly and quickly. “The lines were so efficient that people weren’t standing in line for long and our facility is so big you don’t have to wait out in the cold like at other venues. It went great!” says Miller.
Although Miller feels there were “a few little hiccups,” he says, “I think we will improve upon this next year, but overall I think everything went well and I was very well pleased.”
The success of this year’s festival may provide students with unique opportunities in the future.
“We did this to connect SLCC’s Center for Arts and Media programs and the Grand Theatre here at South City Campus and the Sundance Film Festival to fulfill a community need, and we did this to a substantial level,” says Scott. “Our hope next year is to expand Sundance High School Programs here and to have a little more involvement with all our students in arts and communications, as well as to develop internships with Sundance as a leader in the field. That was the first question out of our mouth and we are reminding them of our goal.”
In terms of the audience’s reception to The Grand as a Sundance venue, the ballots are unofficially in.
“If I’ve heard it one to a million times, the most common statement I hear is “I am so happy we have this venue here,“ says Scott.