Microsoft will present its first grant to a select Grand Jury winner to distribute his or her film in high-definition format, while L'Oreal will award one rising female filmmaker $15,000. Presenting sponsors Adobe Systems, meanwhile, will fly out five presenting filmmakers for the first three days of the festival, which runs from Jan. 17-27 in Park City, Utah. American Express will invite cardmembers to its private events to mingle with high net-worth individuals, where multimillion-dollar distribution deals could potentially take place.
The line between official sponsors and unofficial swag givers has become increasingly blurred in recent years as more and more luxury brands set up their own tents and giveaway booths to get their designer goods in celebrities' hands (and photo shoots) at the festival. Perhaps as a result of that gray area, this year's festival has 19 official sponsors, one less than the average of 20.
Katie Kennedy, associate director of corporate relations for the Sundance Institute, said because Park City is a public city, there's not much the institute can do to stop the "ambushers," as she calls them. But for the official sponsors, there's been more concern than ever about making sure their contribution counts. "A lot will say, 'What's the benefit to me being a sponsor when I can just come into town and do what I want without you being able to stop it?'" Ms. Kennedy said.