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Park City Sizzles for Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY, Utah ( TheStreet) -- Normally you'd expect a town to peak with its Olympic moment, but not so with Park City. It's been thriving long since hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, thanks to the Sundance Film Festival making it ground zero for the world's movie business every late January.

It's essentially a mountain marketplace where Hollywood producers and indie filmmakers meet to talk distribution deals. Sundance success stories include The Blair Witch Project, Little Miss Sunshine and Saw -- all bought here and turned into box office hits. The flood of film between Jan. 20-30 means there's a movie ticket for everyone who puts forth the effort. While the deadline for advance tickets has long since expired, the Sundance website sells individual tickets on a first-come, first-served basis for select screenings up to 36 hours before showtime.

Talisker on Main has become the Park City, Utah, eatery not to miss, and it's sure to packed solid with stars and wannabes until the Sundance Film Festival ends Jan. 30.

The toughest ticket for Sundance 2011 may not be for a movie at all, but for a room in one of the town's better hotels. Many high-end brands have invaded the region since the Olympics, including Hilton's Waldorf Astoria, Starwood's (HOT) St. Regis brand and an installment of California-based Montage Hotels & Resorts that opened in Deer Valley in late December. The hotel has an impressive lobby with a two-story rotunda; is home to Park City's largest spa, including an indoor pool and impeccable treatment rooms; and brings a new APEX mountainside eatery with a fireplace bar. But along with all the good press about Montage Deer Valley is a hefty California-sized price tag -- upward of $750 per night on ordinary weeknights, let alone during prime Sundance days.

As one of the only North American resorts to restrict snowboarders, Deer Valley may lose some Hollywood hipsters. But it may win some back with The Canyons' base village, now in its first phases, which is to include an outdoor apres-ski beach and already offers the ultimate in luxury for getting up the mountain: Doppelmayr quad lifts enclosed in a giant bubble and equipped with heated seats. The lifts, just across from Grand Summit Hotel, have even Aspenites salivating.

Park City has one new eatery starry diners must not miss: Talisker on Main, located in a historic storefront in the center of the village under a monogrammed logo and pristine striped awning. Park City's elite -- likely starting with Lauren Hutton and the Ford models in teh ad campaign for Talisker's Park City luxury communities -- enters a long main dining room of checkerboard floors and marble-trimmed open kitchen, which serves a dinner menu of lobster hush puppies, Elk Tenderloin Carpaccio with slow-poached egg and short-rib shepherd's pie. It's the toughest Sundance reservation in town.

For those in town for the parties, look for the most extensive showing of corporate sponsors in years. There are almost 200 private events anticipated during the 10-day festival. Visitors should keep in mind that most of the serious buyers at Sundance show up for the first days of the festival, leaving well before the midway point and allowing better access for anyone that's not a VIP.

The Bing Lounge from Microsoft (MSFT) has abandoned the supper club space of Cisero's to take over the former Claim Jumper, becoming a meet-and-greet by day and lounge by night. For music lovers, Park City staple Harry's O's has an impressive musical lineup that included an opening night kickoff with Snoop Dogg and a much-anticipated performance Wednesday by Lauren Hill-- open to the public.

The hottest ticket of the festival, though, is the reappearance of the New York-based TAO Group, which will be turning a portion of an Old Town garage into a VIP nightspot with velvet rope cracked only by the most stealthy of Sundance insiders.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

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