You haven't *really* experienced Sundance until you've trudged through eight blocks of human gridlock on Main Street, stuck behind three heavily Ugg-ed out 19-year-old girls intent on topping one another with tales of encounters with actors 4-6 times their age. (Examples: "I can't BELIEVE I saw Anthony Hopkins!"; "Remember that time I took a picture with Colin Firth? Ohmigodialmostdied!!!") Wait, scratch that: you haven't *really* experienced Sundance until you're distracted from all of the above by the sight of a respectable journalist exiting the Lean Pockets Hospitality Lodge* weighed down with three or four canvas bags full of swag. This is what Main Street is all about, and I'm pretty sure its why Robert Redford and Geoff Gilmore need to remind us to "Focus on Film" at the biggest film festival in the States. I've never been to Park City during the off-season, but it seems a lot like any other slightly-sleepy resort town, where mom-and-pop pizza shops share blocks with ridiculous tchochke emporiums. But the during second two weeks of January, nearly every other storefront is commandeered by a corporation.
ESPN takes over a sports bar; T-Mobile and MySpace team up to conquer an Asian-Fusion restaurant; Delta clears out a local pub and pays for WireImage to use it as a portrait studio. Some companies make their omnipresence felt via random advertising slogans, plastered on buildings but pointing to no visible product (see above). The Festival itself arranges for their official sponsors to take turns taking over the same Main Street club, where mobs line up to collect swag from Motorola, Turning Leaf and Krups. Some brands put up a discrete sign in a second-story window and hire a goon to keep the rabble out; this afternoon, I was denied access to both the PREMIERE Magazine Lounge, and the Luxury Lounge Hosted by PEOPLE. Meanwhile, the folks at the New York Lounge (hosted by the Bloomberg-established agency to lure film and TV productions to the state) welcomed me with open arms, offering me bagels with apple butter and tons of tax incentive literature.