Mart Wars Heat Up; Mifed Mulls A Move

On the eve of the spring American Film Market, battle lines are being drawn for a fall market shootout between the Europeans and the Americans.

The organizers of the Mifed film market in Milan are expected this week to announce they’re switching the dates of the 30-year-old event back to the original timeframe, Oct. 20 to 27. That will put Mifed in head-to-head competition with the American Film Marketing Assn.’s new fall edition, planned for the identical dates.

And after Mifed last week fired a shot across the bow of AFM by hinting they’d consider giving some sort of price discount to Milan-bound buyers, AFMA countered with its own offer: non-California-based sellers and distributors will get a 50% discount on fall AFM office space.

“We want to make it advantageous for both sellers and buyers attending a second market in Santa Monica in 1991,” said AFMA exec v.p. Tim Kittleson.

But AFMA may not be able to buy Euro loyalty. European resentment toward a second AFM has reached a fever pitch. Now a European coalition is being organized that will pledge to go to Mifed and not to the October AFM, said Fred Sidon of Princeton Overseas Consulting Group, a U.S. adviser to the Fiera di Milano, of which Mifed is a part.

Sidon, who also has consulted for AFMA, says AFMA members are unaware of “the clout and money” that Mifed can assemble to fight back. He maintains that it is not a local issue confined to the film industry, but one that reaches into the Italian government and the rest of Europe.

“Everybody in Europe is politicized and they have clout,” he said in a telephone interview from his Princeton headquarters. “It has become an international scandal. They don’t understand how Americans can upset a national event.”

Earlier this year Milan Fair director Tullio Galleno pushed the 1991 Mifed forward to Oct. 17 to 21 to accommodate any traders who have enough resources and stamina to attend both markets.

Galleno has since been lobbied by Italian tradesters who don’t want to see Mifed jeopardized by a second AFM, and by other European sellers, including some in Britain, Germany and France.

One Mifed insider confided: “Why should we go to Los Angeles to sell films to the Americans? It’s like taking ice to the Eskimos.”

Indeed, many sellers on this side of the Atlantic believe that since trade with Europe accounts for some 75% of international sales, there is no logic in making a second trek to an L.A. market in the fall.

Mifed, meanwhile, is cleaning up its house – upgrading projection facilities and trying to come up with cost-saving measures for participants.

Galleno has drawn further encouragement from a public expression of support for Mifed from Motion Picture Assn. of America prez Jack Valenti.

British members of AFMA, most of whom voted against the second edition of AFM, will meet with AFMA officials in Santa Monica before deciding which of the fall markets to attend. Most appear to see little sense in flying to Los Angeles in October to sell to their primary customers, the Europeans.

The Brits also favor returning Mifed to its original dates, which would allow them to retain the pre-Mifed London Screenings – a valuable showcase of new product for buyers from around the world. They are keen to preserve the present fall calendar of the Mipcom fair in Cannes, the London Screenings and Mifed, and are opposed to having that European cluster disrupted by a second AFM in L.A.

If Mifed does not alter its schedule, the London Screenings would be uncomfortably sandwiched between Mipcom (Oct. 10 to 14) and the Italian event.

In the past two weeks Galleno has met informally with the London sales agents, and he went to the Berlin film market on a Mifed booster along with Italian National Assn. of Film Exporters president Sergio Felicioli. Galleno is due in L.A. this week for the AFM.

Hy Hollinger In Hollywood Contributed To This Report.

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