Santa Monica Lands Role as Host to Major Film Festival

Times Staff Writer

Plans to move the U.S. version of the Cannes Film Festival from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica in 1991 is expected to enhance the beach city’s budding image as an entertainment hub and is expected to bring millions of dollars in revenues to local businesses.

The American Film Market, an annual nine-day event that was held at the Beverly Hilton this year, is an opportunity for independent movie producers to sell their films to foreign distributors. Last year, an estimated $350-million worth of business was conducted at the market.

Nearly 10,000 people attended the event at the Beverly Hilton, said Tim Kittleson, executive director of the American Film Market.

Kittleson estimates that participants this year spent $5 million on hotels, $3.3 million on meals, $1.5 million on shopping, $1.4 million on parties and $600,000 on transportation.


Revenues From Taxes

Santa Monica collects 1% of all retail sales as the city’s portion of the sales tax and 10% of hotel room rates. If the same $11.8 million is spent in Santa Monica in 1991, the city could collect nearly $600,000 in nine days.

But Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem David Finkel said he was not motivated by added revenues when he suggested to an AFM official that the event be moved to Santa Monica.

“We’re developing the Third Street outdoor mall, we’re building a series of hotels, and I thought that the idea of a major market like this coming into town would be just beautiful timing,” he said.


Finkel said his support for the market, which is coming to Santa Monica in part because of the new facilities being built, does not contradict his slow-growth philosophy.

“These projects are already coming forward,” he said. “I prefer a group like AFM coming into Santa Monica to use those facilities.”

Finkel said that if development must continue, he prefers that it be arts and cultural facilities geared toward nighttime use because it produces less traffic.

“Developing evening uses is not going to be as invasive as office buildings,” he said. “It’s the lesser of two evils.”

Businesses Spring Up

In the last year, comedy clubs such as Second City and the Improv have opened in Santa Monica. Several critically acclaimed and expensive restaurants have also opened in the city, as have several art galleries.

For at least nine days in late February and early March, 1991, the city will act as host to the American Film Market.

Through 1994, the market will be based in the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, which will open in May on Ocean Avenue about two blocks south of the Santa Monica Pier.


But Loews will not be the only hotel to benefit from the move. Kittleson said participants this year booked more than 1,000 hotel rooms in and around Beverly Hills. Since most of the rooms at the Loews will be used for office space during the market, visitors will stay at surrounding hotels, including at least two other new hotels under construction near the civic auditorium.

The Location Expo, a three-day event connected to the market at which more than 100 film commissions worldwide meet to promote their locations for films, will be also held at the civic auditorium, about a block south of the Loews Hotel.

In addition to the nearly 1,400 hotel rooms that will be available in Santa Monica in 1991, 24 movie screens existing or under construction within walking distance of the Loews Hotel was a factor in moving to Santa Monica, Kittleson said.

This year, market participants were shuttled from the Beverly Hilton to the Cineplex Odeon’s 14 screens at the Beverly Center just outside the Beverly Hills city limits. But the biggest factor in moving from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, Kittleson said, was parking.

“Parking has gotten worse over the years in Beverly Hills,” he said.

Santa Monica will provide more than 7,000 parking spaces, including lots at the civic auditorium, the Third Street Promenade Mall and at the beach, according to John Babington, director of conference services for the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

And although comparisons to Cannes in the south of France are inevitable, Kittleson said his market has “better weather, cheaper prices. The only real similarity is that now we’ll be on the beach, too.”