Film Buyers on Shopping Spree in L.A.

The organizers of the eighth annual American Film Market, an international swap meet for buyers and sellers of movies, claim that actual sales from this event exceed those of any other market in the world, including those held each year in Cannes, France, and Milan, Italy.

There is no way of knowing whether the claim is accurate. The figures are, in large part, based on deals that may or may not be finalized.

But to anyone who wanders into the scores of suites in the packed Beverly Hilton Hotel during the 10-day market, it’s clear that there is plenty of business being conducted.

Tim Kittleson, executive director of the American Film Market, said that more than 1,600 buyers are registered for the market, an increase of 30% over a year ago. By closing day March 4, the sellers may have orders tallying more than $200 million.


Most of the buying, selling and trading going on here involves the rights to foreign territories. There are foreign sellers selling to foreign buyers, but the bulk of the orders will be for territorial rights to American films, and with the dollar at new lows against most foreign currency, this may take on the appearance of a fire sale.

Beyond the sheer numbers of people registered, the 8th AFM has also become a haven for non-traditional marketeers.

Sovesportfilm, the Soviet film-exporting cooperative which made its first appearance at the AFM last year, has doubled its representation, and Alexander Kamshalov, the Soviets’ top film executive, came along to continue the East-West film discussions launched with the Entertainment Summit last year.

The AFM gives Kamshalov an opportunity to deal with film officials from other nations as well. Whether they are here to buy, sell or do some polylingual schmoozing, most of the world’s film-using nations have sent representatives to Los Angeles.

Among the first-time attendees at AFM are China, Poland, Indonesia and Denmark.

The most noticeably larger segment of this year’s AFM, however, is the Location Expo, a side attraction with booths featuring the geographical, political and economic advantages of cities, states and countries throughout the world.

A record 115 film commissions have sent representatives to AFM. The commissions will be competing for the attention of film directors, producers, location scouts and other industry people who decide where films will be made.

Hosting film production has become big business throughout the world and the AFM, because of its international attendance, has become a prime location itself.


California, Colorado, Florida and Canada each have 10 commissions (1 for the state, 9 for cities and counties) at the show. Texas sent 8, Arizona 6. Other representatives have shown up from as far off as Australia, New Zealand and Thailand.

Given all the expansion under the AFM umbrella, it’s no wonder that the Beverly Hilton is already crammed to capacity, and that many buyers have arrived early this year in order to maximize deals and avoid the confusion of juggling dozens of offers later on.

In addition, the industry trend toward selling product directly to home video, cable and non-network free TV has been quickened by a marked increase in film production in 1988. Thus many sellers and buyers at AFM say they are noticing--and seeking to exploit--the increased role that non-theatrical product outlets is playing this year.

Kittleson and others said the expanded ancillary markets are the main reason for 1988’s record attendance, bringing many smaller distributors out of the international woodwork to see what’s available. Two other factors--the gradual recovery of national economies abroad and those governments’ crackdown on wholesale distribution of pirated videos and films--also encourage increased participation in the world film market, Kittleson said.


The market’s administrators have added one other new wrinkle to this year’s edition: a short series of seminars and round tables on international industry topics such as production financing, satellite transmission and governmental roles in the film industry. Kittleson and AFMA President Jonas Rosenfield agreed the discussion sessions--like everything associated with AFM, seemingly--will be expanding in scope over the next few years.