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Press Release Highlight the Problems with Park City Film Studios

Park City Film Studios (PCFS) is nearing completion and it’s time to take another look at what they are planning. While I have been critical of the project, now that its opening, I hope it achieves enough success to be viable. Yet, reading a press release from March makes me question whether their strategy will work. Here is the press release, with my comments in yellow:

Film Studios to Bring Hollywood-Level Production

PARK CITY, Utah – The Utah Film Commission has always welcomed Hollywood to our beautiful state and its diversified terrain, and soon Tinseltown will have even more reasons to head east.

There have been nearly 1,000 Hollywood feature films shot in the state, like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “Thelma & Louise”, and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. But there has been one thing that film makers didn’t have in this area: real Hollywood-style sound stages and production studios. But they will soon.

 The films mentioned were made at least 20 years ago. They of course left out Utah’s two most recent big-budget flops films, John Carter and Lone Ranger. While this doesn’t matter too much, it seems big budget movies film in Utah when they need the Bonneville Salt Flats or the southern desert. I could understand how a movie that films almost exclusively in Utah may want to use the Park City Film Studios (i.e. 127 Hours), but how many of those are there? What seems more likely is a film like 2009’s Star Trek that has a scene in the San Rafael Swell. Will that scene in southern Utah make the film makers want to use PCFS. I find that hard to believe.  


The developers of Park City Film Studios hope their location will become “Hollywood East”, and they broke ground on the project in October of 2013. Chairman Greg Ericksen said their studios will provide a boon to the local film industry.

“We can film anything in Park City now that you can film anywhere in the world, either film or television,” he said. “So, we finally got the missing element: the infrastructure.”

 This seems to be a bit of hyperbole. For example, where’s the huge back lot at the Film Studio? What if the majority of the movie required an urban setting? I’ll let those issues go, though, and focus on something more important. They say they “finally got the missing element.: infrastructure.” I’d say that they are still missing another key component: people. Not that Salt Lake doesn’t have great people (they do); however, they are not the exact people they use in Hollywood. If you need to film some special effects are you going to fly your top, trusted people to Park City or are you just going to do it in Hollywood? I could be wrong but there would have to be something very compelling here to make that happen. 


Ericksen is the mastermind behind the studios and wholeheartedly believes the $120 million project will be a boon to the local economy.

“I think you’ll see what Park City has wanted for a long time, and that’s the second economy during the shoulder months,” Ericksen said. “I think you’ll see the hotels and eateries pretty much filled up all year round now.”

 Actually, I think the average Parkite loves the shoulder season here. Someone like Bill White Restaurant Group, maybe not. This gets to the root of some of the arrogance surrounding this project. Mr Erikson tells residents the 70 foot monstrosity that blocks the mountain from Highway is going to be beautiful. That it will fill up our town in the shoulder season. That his project will diversify our community and fill our restaurants. It’s almost like he doesn’t live here in Park City. Wait, does he?  


While those associated with Park City Film Studios feel confident about Ericksen’s vision, there are some doubters, however, who feel the 374,000 square-foot facility will bring a rash of congestion to the city. Ericksen said his team has done their homework.

“We looked at congestion, we’ve done traffic studies,” he said. “We’ve remediated that, most of that. We don’t feel like it’s going to be as significant as most people feel.”

 Exactly how has traffic congestion be remediated? As far as I know, this sits on 248. If the studio is successful at all, there will be more people on 248 at 8AM. If the hotel is built next door, there will be more people on 248. There is a huge parking lot out front? How are people going to park there if they don’t drive down 248? Perhaps Mr Erikson has a plan to only open the studio at night and not allow hotel guests to park there?  


One great thing about Park City Film Studios is they have everything Hollywood has to offer, but Hollywood doesn’t have what Park City has to offer—some of the most beautiful views in the world.

Ericksen said he feels that upon completion of the studios, Park City will be able to match Hollywood’s production values while offering a whole different feel. A recent visit from a frazzled Hollywood studio executive echoed that sentiment.

Ericksen explained: “She said, ‘Gradually my muscles started to relax,’ she said, ‘I started to breathe’ and she said, ‘I just said to myself, Ah, what a great place to be creative.’”

 I don’t exactly envision the making of a movie relaxing. Perhaps I’ve watched too many movies about the making of movies. Maybe the film production staff will work 6 hour days and get down to Main Street to dine and have drinks at Silver by 5PM. They’ll enjoy long hikes and ride their bikes along the rail trail. I guess I don’t know anything about how movies are actually made. I pictured it as hard, but this sounds absolutely cushy. 


The film industry is a huge business. Producing a feature film costs millions of dollars. For example, the blockbuster film “Gravity” relied heavily on special effects and cost around $100 million to make. Just the kind of work that will soon be available at the new studios, and that excites Ericksen.

 I’ll be positive for a moment. If PCFS could be the go to studio for something like Gravity, that would awesome. If it became known that you just had to do projects like that here, what a coup for Park City… OK, back to being not-so-positive. Gravity took 4 1/2 years to make and they had to invent technologies to actually make it work. Just because you build a building and buy some equipment doesn’t mean that you can make one of the most technically challenging films every produced. Wow. 


“I think not only to the greatest snow on Earth, but I think it’s going to be home to the greatest stories on Earth, which is fantastic and really my passion,” he said.

Although Park City Film Studios still looks like it’s a long way from completion, it’s really not. Ericksen said the hard part is done, and a lot of the mechanics, technical and special effects equipment is already here and will soon be installed. The studios hope to open in early summer of this year.

 Again, I wish PCFS luck, but I worry about them. I worry about the strategy. I worry about the location. I worry about the impact on traffic. I worry about the hotel being built there. I worry that’s Quinn’s will become a strip mall. And more than anything I worry about the conversations I hear around town where people are already bickering about what the land should be used for once the studio fails. That means I’m not alone with my concerns. 



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