A better Berlin market

At the end of the fourth day of the 44th annual Berlin Intl. Film Fest Market, many regulars already are predicting a huge improvement over last year, which was said to be among the slowest in memory. Although there have been few real changes in the market’s structure, insiders cite a variety of reasons why 1994 will be a hot year.

The only physical change at the Cine Center, the market’s home base,is an adjustment to the hall layout. Given an additional bit of floor space by the city, market topper Beki Probst was able to boost the booth count to 74.

“The others are creative with film, I’m creative with space,” Probst explained.

Though there are those who grumble about overcrowding — the China Film Export & Import Corp. told Daily Variety there is “a lot more noise here than at Monte Carlo”– booths are still accessible.

The number of buyers also has increased. According to Probst, where there were 246 buyers last year, 281 are anticipated for ’94. There also should be more than the approximately 300 sellers present last year.

Yet Probst is the first to concede that layout and buyers are not enough to make a good market. “It ultimately depends on the films,” he said.

Victor Loewy, Alliance Releasing prexy, spoke for many around the stands when he said, “This year’s product was more interesting than in the past. Deals are already being made in the hallways,” he half-joked.

And the hallways are not the only place of interest. The traditionally less frequented market screenings are experiencing larger audiences. Flanders Image put on a screening of its arty flick, “Tango Tango,” at which topper Rita Goegebeur expected no more than five people. Instead, the crowd was close to 30. Goegebeur said the high turnout was probably partially related to her hefty advertising efforts.

Film Fest prez Moritz de Hadeln also believes better advertising on the part of Euro sellers would help business. Whereas U.S. productions can spend up to 50 % of their budget on promotion, Europeans rarely spend more than 10% and have yet to master the art of hype.

Sony Pictures Classics co-prexy Marcie Bloom has been to Berlin five times, and is euphoric about the event, explaining, “Berlin casts an extremely wide net. If you can’t find something you like in Berlin, well …”

The hit pic at this early stage in the festival is the Cuban comedy “Fresa y Chocolate.”

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