Atlanta in running to take over hosting duties of acclaimed Sundance Festival in 2027

The marquee of the Egyptian Theatre appears during the Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 28, 2020, in Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival may not always call Park City home. The Sundance Institute has started to explore the possibility of other U.S. locations to host the independent film festival starting in 2027, the organization said Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP, File)

Like some of the lucky filmmakers at Sundance, Atlanta may be in the running for a major win.

It’s been based in the resort town of Park City, Utah, since its inception in 1978, but growing financial and development concerns have led festival organizers to seek a new location. That announcement has been met with a slew of U.S. cities with strong cultural arts ties planning bids.

Now that includes Atlanta, according to Chris Escobar, owner of the Plaza and Tara Theatres.

“We’re throwing our name in the hat,” he told WABE on Monday. “They’ve got some things we have to do, some information we have to provide … it’s all about what commitment we can make.”

The annual film festival is considered one of the most prestigious and highly-attended film festivals in the U.S.

Escobar says the city is in the preliminary steps of seeing whether or not Atlanta officials will be invited for a request for proposal, a decision that is set to be made on May 6. He believes that Atlanta is more than capable of the opportunity.

“Atlanta is the perfect place,” said Escobar, who is also executive director of the Atlanta Film Society, which produces the Atlanta Film Festival. “This is one of the top production hubs in the world, and even before that, it’s already a creative place as we see through our vibrant arts and culture community.”

He said the city’s diverse talent and culture is in alignment with Sundance’s mission of showcasing marginalized artists.

“There’s literally no single place in the planet to be doing that and supporting that, fostering new voices,” he added.

While Atlanta does have a strong infrastructure, including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and many hotel and tourism resources, Escobar admits that Sundance would be the first for the city as far as a culture and arts festival of its size.

If selected, arrangements may serve as a challenge to city officials, who did not respond to a request for comment before this story was published.

Escobar notes that while events like the Atlanta Film Festival and Atlanta Jewish Film Festival are popular with filmgoers, they bring in a small percentage of the city’s overall population.

“There’s always a lot of uncertainty sometimes when something that big moves into town, especially in the context like ours when philanthropic and public dollars for arts and culture can already be incredibly limited,” said Escobar.

“But I’m trying to be more optimistic and glass half full about this and maybe it will change the paradigm.”

If selected, Atlanta would begin hosting the festival in 2027, with the potential opportunity of a lucrative long-term contract with Sundance.

Escobar says it’s no coincidence that the decision for Atlanta’s bid will be made just one day after the final screenings at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival.

“It’s one of those crazy star alignments … almost a great little reminder, sort of like a little sample case, of what’s possible,” he said. “In my biased opinion, in the interest of Sundance, we are not only ready for it. We are the best place for it.”

Named after Academy-Award-winning director Robert Redford’s film institute of the same name, the Sundance Film Festival has gained notoriety for showcasing some of the most critically acclaimed independent films. Previous Sundance winners include the 1994 comedy “Clerks,” the 2009 drama “Precious” and more recently Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-winning thriller, “Get Out.”