They're young, they're from California or New York, they're well off and they like to wear black, which for all practical purposes is the color of money this week in Park City.
The ebony-clad crowd that has taken up residence for the Sundance Film Festival will pump well over $6 million into the town's economy before this year's annual movie-bash-in-the-mountains is over.And they'll return to the great media centers of the world with Utah on their minds, a phenomenon festival organizers say is priceless.
"I have to say that before all this the only two things people in the entertainment industry really knew about Utah were, first of all, the presence of the Mormon Church and then Donnie and Marie Osmond," said Saundra Saperstein, marketing director for the Utah Film Commission. "With the establishment and growth of the Sundance Institute, that perception has changed.
"It's a marketing opportunity for the state that's unequaled," she said."
There are few other events - if any - that have the same economic impact as the festival," added Joan Calder, executive director of the Park City Chamber of Commerce-Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For the remainder of January it will be all but impossible, especially on weekends, for anybody to find a hotel room in Park City, a town of about 6,500 that boasts tourist accommodations for 10,000.
About half of Park City's visitors this week are pure film mavens, the rest skiers, though many are some hybrid of both. Take, for instance, the Associated Press writer from Los Angeles listed on the official Sundance press roster with a note about his personal needs: "Vehicle needs to accommodate two plus skis."
Almost 200 out-of-town journalists will cover the festival, spreading the word in publications that range from the obscure to the omniscient.
"This gets the Park City message out to people who might not otherwise hear it," said Calder. "We're frequently written about in ski magazines and travel publications, but this other coverage exposes Utah to the film industry as a site for making commercials or doing feature film work. It pays off throughout the year."
"The press list is very impressive," said Saperstein. "We've got Kenny Turan from the Los Angeles Times, Karen James from the New York Times, David D'Arcy from National Public Radio. I have people coming in from Vogue magazine and Harpers Bazaar and Interview . . . "
Then too, there are the reporters from Icelandic State Television, the Austin Chronicle, Scotland on Sunday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the UCLA Daily Bruin . . .
The festival's fame has grown such that some try to capitalize on it, like the company that wanted this year to show a video at the festival to promote a private fund-raising endeavor in Los Angeles.
Denizens of distant corners of the globe have heard of Sundance, too, and one from Croatia wrote this year to ask for press credentials.
"They said they were very sorry their media application was late, but that they hoped we'd understand that it was because of the war," said Saperstein.
The Croatian writer was graciously turned down, largely because he lacked some of the means to pull things off on his end.
"He wanted us to pay to bring him over," said Saperstein.
1993 Sundance Film Festival
Discretionary spending $877,500
Transportation (car rentals) $693,000
Estimated number of out-of-state participants: 4,500
Percentage planning to return to Utah 80%
Income: over $50,000 62%
Age: under 29 18%
over 50 7%
State: California 66%
New York 20%
Other non-Utah 10%
DATA ABOUT STAY
Average number in party 2.9
Average length of stay (days) 5.5
Average number of restaurant meals 9.9
Average number of days skied 1.6
Percentage renting a car 56%
Percentage lodgin in Park City or Deer Valley 92%