Sundance In The City Of Lakes? Minneapolis’ Multi-Prong Bid For Robert Redford-Founded Festival Sets Sail

EXCLUSIVE: The snowy streets of Minneapolis are seeking to snatch Sundance from the snowy slopes of Park City.

Leading with a tagline of “You Couldn’t Cast A Better Location,” Minnesota’s most populous metropolis is among the select cities and jurisdictions that has submitted a detailed bid for the Robert Redford-founded indie film festival.

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With CEOs from Target, Best Buy and the parent company of U.S. Bank backing Minneapolis’ proposal, the host committee is promising at least $2 million annually “to sustain and grow the festival,” says Film North executive director Andrew Peterson.

“With our thriving arts and entertainment scene, diverse cultural heritage, and passionate film community, Minneapolis is the ideal backdrop for the Sundance Film Festival,” Mayor Jacob Frey tells Deadline.

Pitching itself in a slick coffee table overview presentation as “home to one of the largest urban Native American communities” and having a “long history of inclusion, forward thinking policies, and of being a proud pioneer in embracing the LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit community,” the hometown of Prince may also have the distinction of being one of the few contenders that’s colder than Park City in January.

But look at the other geological upside.

Sure, the city is a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Los Angeles, but along with the prestige of Purple Rain and giant murals of state native Bob Dylan, Minneapolis lacks the altitude of Park City and the corresponding ailments that has brought many a filmmaker and festivalgoer low over the years.

The midwestern city is also seeking to plug into the ethos of Redford’s festival – something that many prove a hard sell for other contenders.

“We know festival-goers want to be able to meet each other and connect, as is the long-standing tradition of Sundance’s commitment to fostering a network which will continue throughout the year,” says Ben Johnson, Minneapolis’ Director of Arts & Cultural Affairs.

“Hosting the Sundance Film Festival would showcase what those who live here have long known – that Minneapolis is a world-class destination for arts and cultural expression,” adds McKnight Foundation president Tonya Allen, who is also backing the bid.

With all that, Sundance is “nowhere near a decision” on a potential new home, a festival insider tells me. However, a search committee, which includes board member and founder scion Amy Redford, is already going through proposals and plans to visit candidate cities like Minneapolis over the next few months.

Officially, Sundance is saying nothing right now.

Still, Minneapolis could prove a serious player.

Along with the support of corporate chiefs, local and state officials, the city of nearly 500,000 has a variety of venues amidst its downtown historic theaters, as well as public transportation and other infrastructure that address some of the issues that have bedeviled Sundance in Park City over the past five years. “The festival has outgrown Park City,” a Sundance insider says. “Price point, parking, venues, it’s all gotten out of control,” they note.

Sitting alongside the Mississippi River and neighboring state capitol of St. Paul, Minneapolis reckons it can more than easily accommodate Sundance’s requirements, financial and otherwise, and enlarge the franchise, so to speak.

“There is no city that embraces the arts quite like we do – and Minneapolis already has a long history of supporting independent filmmakers and their art of storytelling,” Fry, the two-term civic leader, added. “Sundance would be a welcome addition to our theater community, and we’re excited to throw our hat in the ring to host this world-renowned festival.”

Sundance Film Festival 2024
Sundance Film Festival 2024

After the past few years of declining attendance, shaky sponsorship and a revolving leadership door, Sundance finally said the quiet thing out loud in April and announced it was looking to set up shop in a new location – as Deadline exclusively reported in July 2023.

Under Sundance’s current contract with Park City, which has be the festival’s home for decades, the shindig will stay in the tony Utah resort town for 2025 and 2026. Wherever Sundance eventually ends up, or if the united and well-funded Utah bid keeps the festival, nothing changes until 2027.

Deadline first reported back in May that Minneapolis was among the potential contenders that had put in a Request for Information submission. Culling down those submissions to a Request for Proposal process that ran from May 7 -June 21, the Sundance Institute received comprehensive bids from Minneapolis as well as from a trio of Hollywood South a.k.a. Georgia cities (Atlanta, Athens and Savannah), Boulder, CO, Santa Fe, NM, Nashville, TN and others. Sundance also received a muscular Utah Sundance Film Festival Host Committee pitch that aims to shift the focus of the fest from Park City to Salt Lake City, as Deadline has detailed.

A decision on where Sundance may move, or not, in 2027 is expected to be made public near the end of the 2025 festival.

To that, the 2025 Sundance Film Festival will take place from January 23–February 2 next year with screenings in Park City and SLC.

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