In February, a record number of people from around the world converged on Santa Monica for the eight-day market. Some 7,000 people from more than 70 countries, including nearly 1,500 buyers, visited the Loews Hotel, where the AFM is headquartered for the event, and attended the screenings of more than 300 films at the five theater complexes in the city.
Although the AFM is still not a household word in Southern California like the Cannes Film Festival in France even after nearly a quarter of a century in existence, it is an important trade event. More than $500 million in motion picture and television deals are closed annually at the event.
Starting this November, the AFM will shift its operation from spring to fall. The time change will affect two other film events. The International Film Festival of Milan (MIFF), taking advantage of the spring vacancy, will shift its dates from October to March beginning next year. The shift will enable the MIFF to better handle increased popularity and provide attendees with better weather.
The other change will better complement the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival (AFI FEST) which is also held in the fall. While the AFM is taking place this year in Santa Monica from Nov. 3-10, the AFI FEST will be held from Nov. 4 to 14 at the ArchLight Cinemas in Hollywood.
AFMA executives praised the move. "With the move to the fall, the AFM has created a strategic alliance with the AFI FEST that will benefit both organizations," said Jean Prewitt, AFMA president and CEO. "This combination of a festival and a market will merge cultural and commercial activities and provide a board and rich experience for all participants," she added.
Michael Ryan, AFMA chairman, said, "We are confident that the November AFM, along AFI FEST, will result in a record level of industry attendees."
The February 2004 AFM had a record number of attendees, so it is unlikely the change will hurt either operation.
The films being screened at the AFM, which were at one time were geared more for the action/horror/science fiction moviegoers and straight-to-video productions, have been taking on a more international and elevated air. Films from more varied countries, especially Asian and India, are finding their ways into the screening schedule.
Film buyers are more and more having to decide if they want to take in a sophisticated subtitled drama or a good old fashioned crash-and-chase epic being screened at the same time.
The AFM is a serious operation where hard edged deals are made worth millions, but if one is an aficionado of the cinema, the AFM is certainly the place to be.