Atlanta, Savannah and Athens named finalists to take over as Sundance Film Festival host

The Egyptian Theatre is seen during the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Three Georgia cities are in the running to take over hosting duties of the Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the U.S.

Media executive and Sundance Institute board member Pat Mitchell confirmed on Wednesday that Atlanta, Savannah and Athens are in a pool of 15 cities approved to submit proposals for the event, according to Georgia Entertainment.

The announcement was made at “Shaping Georgia’s Entertainment Tourism Future,” a luncheon event held by the Entertainment Tourism Alliance of Georgia and Georgia Entertainment. Mitchell served as one of the guest speakers.

“Regardless of what happens, this is something that should make Georgians proud,” Mitchell said at the event, noting that 90 U.S. cities originally submitted proposals.

Originally created as The Utah/US Film Festival in 1978, Sundance has been held in Park City, Utah annually for the past 45 years.

The festival has become well known as a hub for premiering films that have grown to become part of the fabric of U.S. cinema, ranging from “Precious” and “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” to “House Party” and “Clerks.”

Starting in 2023, news began circulating on Sundance’s interest in seeking a new location over rising budgeting and development concerns.

Last month, it was announced that Atlanta and Savannah were both considering bids to bring home the festival, which raked in over 100,000 attendees this January.

“Atlanta is the perfect place,” said Chris Escobar, executive director of the Atlanta Film Society, in an April interview with WABE.

“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.”

Of the Georgia cities under consideration, Atlanta has seen the most production and media projects, with film and television giants such as Tyler Perry Studios and Trilith Studios located in the metropolitan area.

While the Savannah area has hosted productions such as “Lady and the Tramp” and the Amazon miniseries “The Underground Railroad,” Athens has seen only a handful of major projects in recent years.

Georgia stands with California and New York as one of the top filming locations in the country.

If any of the three cities are selected, they would begin hosting the festival in 2027, with the potential opportunity of a lucrative long-term contract with Sundance.

The deadline for all 15 cities to submit their proposals is June 21. A formal decision for a host city is not expected to be made until late 2024 or early 2025, according to Deadline.