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Calm reigns at Sundance

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PARK CITY — It's a kinder, gentler Sundance.

Not that the Sundance Film Festival has ever been akin to a rowdy street brawl. But the consensus seems to be that the annual festival — in its 22nd season — is a little more orderly, calm, cool and collected this time around.

"It does seem a lot more low-key this year," said Alison Butz, Park City's special events manager.

Park City police have reported fewer problems than in the past. They haven't had to break up any wild parties. Even the number of parking violations is down.

Sundance box office managers say tickets have been selling at the same rate as a year ago. But film festival organizers have reported fewer film industry people in town — a product, primarily, of a weaker national economy.

"The streets, during the daytime, it feels really busy. We've noticed a slower evening," said Monty Coates, who heads up the Main Street Business Alliance and owns the art, jewelry and furniture store Southwestern Expressions.

"Historically, with Sundance, the street is very busy right up through the night. The last couple of nights, it's been empty by 7 o'clock. Maybe they're in the restaurants, I don't know."

Jim Weinberg, a Marsac Avenue resident, said he's noticed more vehicle traffic on his street this year because of the Slamdance Film Festival, in its second year up the road at the Park City silver mine. But Weinberg isn't complaining.

"I think the new transit center has helped greatly with people coming to one spot to catch the bus in the downtown area," said the 10-year city resident. "That seems to help the traffic flow a lot better."

The new bus transit center, conveniently located across from the Sundance box office, was recently given an award by the California-based Local Government Commission for projects that "further the creation of livable communities" in the western United States.

Park City spokesman Myles Rademan said a new cooperative agreement between the city and Sundance, signed earlier this year, seems to be paying off. At a meeting this week between festival organizers and city officials, all parties reported things were running smoothly.

"All the work we've done has paid off to the point where people know what's going on now," Rademan said. "It doesn't seem like it's that same chaotic atmosphere. It seems like the festival has comfortably fit into the city."

Isis Kirby, who's been through seven Sundance festivals as an employee of the Expanding Heart metaphysical bookstore, says she has noticed a different attitude and atmosphere this year.

"I think that's mainly because of the tragedy that happened in September. I think people are a little more consciously kinder," she said.

Sundance continues its 11-day run in Park City, Salt Lake City and Ogden through Sunday.

E-mail: zman@desnews.com