PARK CITY - Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford, Director John Cooper and new Executive Director Kerri Putman answered the media's questions during the indie film event's annual kick-off press conference Thursday afternoon and as usual it was a mostly dry affair.
Redford spent a good portion of his opening remarks discussing the Sundance Institute's global initiatives and continuing mantra to do "whatever we can in [our] pledge to help new filmmakers."
It was Redford's programming guru, John Cooper, who had the most revelations. After an admittedly stinging setback with a loss in sponsorships due to the overall economy in 2010, it appears things are on much steadier ground this year.
"Oddly enough, I think this is gonna be one of our biggest year ever," Cooper says. "We are already sold out, but the world on the street and with the people that kept calling over the past few weeks I think its' going to be a very big year. And maybe a little crowded on the streets."
Unfortunately, Cooper also noted, "I fear this constant situation of ambush marketers are back."
The celebrity gifting suites and pseudo clubs do appear stronger this year (Cooper jokingly referred to them as "riff raff") after a noticeable decline last year. However, there is no evidence it will return to the tabloid frenzy of 2003-2008 when Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Teri Hatcher were walking up and down Main St. in search of paparazzi and free clothes.
One other admitted problem that Cooper thinks will be a big one during this year's event is the loss of the Racquet Club theater space. Usually the second biggest venue during the festival and the home base of the dramatic competition, the building is owned by the Park City proper and is under extensive renovations. In such a small town, the Festival was unable to find a new suitable alternative. This has led to less public tickets to many screenings across the board for sponsors, press and volunteers.
As the press conference winded down, one journalist was brave enough to ask the film icon if had any plans on retiring from the Institute or Festival in the near future. It was one of the funnier moments of the session as Redford smiled and replied, "No, I have not thought about retiring. I am gonna die, but I haven't thought about retiring."
The 2011 Sundance Film Festival runs tonight through Jan 29. Look for continuing coverage on HitFix throughout the entire week.
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