Redesigning the entire film-going experience

Sundance 608

Madison, Wisconsin

When Robert Redford decided to extend his independent film initiative, Sundance, throughout the United States, he selected Kahler Slater to redesign the entire film-going experience, as well as meld the unmistakable Sundance sensibility with regional character so that each theater would be as original as the films it would show. After the expression “rough elegance” emerged from a visioning session, the Kahler Slater experience designers created an overall brand essence as well naming and logo guidelines to steer the design of Sundance Cinemas around the country.

The very first theater, Sundance 608, in Madison, Wisconsin, was the prototype for Redford’s vision. Not only does it include a six-screen theater showing the best independent films, but also plenty of opportunities to meet and discuss the films before and after the event. Our team designed a ground-floor café, two lounge areas, a second-floor full restaurant and bar, as well as a rooftop full bar with tables and chairs to encourage conversation and community gatherings so essential to Redford’s vision. The design inspiration for Cinema 608 was a calming, undulating riverbed evoking the elements of Wisconsin’s woodlands. Reclaimed wood from Lake Superior cover the walls. Wisconsin-quarried limestone clad larger vertical elements. The first-floor lighting provides a softened summer-day feeling. And the upper floors, with velvet drapes and dark ebony walls, refer to nightfall. Birch trees, tables of steel and barn board, Sundance furniture and accessories, and art by local artists combine to create a feeling of rough elegance that is uniquely Wisconsin.

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“It’s difficult to find the right balance of the vision of your soul and your heart and the values of the community, but I think we did that. I’m pleased to see this place illustrates some of the local values.”

Robert Redford, Owner, Sundance