Seen at Sundance: Brands Stake Claim at Pop-Up Venues

By Michael O'Connell January 28, 2010, 4:32 PM EST

Official hospitality venue, Village at the Yard

Photo: Sara Jaye Weiss

Hoping to share in the slew of celebrities and media camped out at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, this week, brands including Nintendo, Sephora, DirecTV, and Bravo set down roots with marketing-heavy temporary venues that are hosting festival programming and downtime diversions through the end of its run this Sunday.

The 26th installment of the independent film industry's flagship event kicked off January 21, and in the week since opening night, has already welcomed the likes of Katie Holmes, Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo, and Kristen Stewart—all of whom have been spotted at the of hospitality suites, events, and promotions around the small Utah town.

To leverage the population boom—an expected 50,000 attend screenings in a city that is home to fewer than 10,000—many brands return each year to turn unconventional spaces into branded holding tanks for the masses.

One of the city's largest temporary venues is the Village at the Yard, normally home the Anderson Lumber Yard. New York-based Relevent Group and PMK-BNC have transformed the 100,000-square-foot facility into a hospitality complex for the festival's past three outings. This year marks its first as an official Sundance hospitality suite.

Under the direction of Relevent's Tony Berger, the Village contains pop-up retail spaces for Fred Segal, Nintendo Wii, and Absolut; a diner; a facility for press conferences; and multiple lounge areas that have already hosted premieres and after-parties for films like Blue Valentine and Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl.

Oakley even used the facility for the premiere of Skateland on January 24. To further promote the sponsored film—and capitalize on buzz for the upcoming Winter Olympics—the brand brought in ts roster of professional snowboarders, including gold medalist Shawn White, to give stars snowboarding lessons earlier that weekend.

Smaller, more media-focused venues have also been erected around town in empty storefronts and office spaces. To promote the upcoming season of hair styling reality competition Shear Genius, Bravo director of consumer marketing Valerie Brown hired Precision Event Group's Jason Wanderer to create a lounge and salon. Open for just three days, January 22 to 24, the pop-up took Wanderer seven days to create inside an empty office building and another three to strike.

While open, the Shear Genius salon included a lounge and fully functioning salon where guests could watch previews of the show, get massages, and receive complimentary cuts from Bravo star Jonathan Antin and Nexxus stylist Kevin Mancuso.

Entertainment Weekly erected its annual photo studio this year with Los Angeles-based Larry Abel Designs. Abel constructed the studio inside a two-story gallery on Park City's Main Street and constructed all of the furnishings inside the firm's new Palm Springs retail store, ASI. Throughout the week, film stars such as Michelle Williams, America Ferrera, Orlando Bloom, and Kevin Kline have stopped in for portraits for the magazine's Web site.

Taking advantage of the Twitter boom, Smashbox Studios and social media firm the Parnassus Group built the festival's first Tweethouse. The venue, which was open January 23 and 24, hosted panel discussions about social media's role in the film industry during the day and parties in the evening. Smashbox and Parnassus also used the facility to host a last-minute celebrity “tweet-up” to raise money for Haitian relief. Guests such as actor LeVar Burton used the event to seed information on Twitter about where to donate to the cause.

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