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Hot AFM fare can burn out

Appearances can be deceptive, especially in Hollywood. A raft of new projects , some with stars and name directors ostensibly attached, have emerged at the American Film Market over the past few days.

To be sure, a sizable number of the fresh, mostly unheralded offerings have generated heat and sales (see accompanying box).

But as the bazaar at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel reaches the midpoint today, a few of the more pragmatic buyers were skeptical about some of the newly unwrapped projects.

“The problem is more than half (of the just-announced films) will disappear after the market,” said Kelly Green of foreign buyers’ rep Bjorck Film Corp.

“Actors drop out or producers can’t get the financing together,” said Green, explaining why films don’t materialize. Nevertheless, she noted her buyers are talking about a lot of new pix here.

Another multiterritory buyer named at least 10 good movies he’s either chasing or exploring.

Green observed Sunday that there were a lot fewer buyers attending this year than last. The American Film Marketing Assn. stats belie that.

AFMA exec VP Tim Kittleson said Sunday that about 1,500 buyers had registered by opening day Thursday — about 10% more than at the same time last year. He’s optimistic that the total buyer count will exceed 1993’s 1,700.

“It’s been a rough 18 months” for indie sellers, chiefly due to the recession , he said. “Most people had a pretty decent Mifed and I think we will see the trend continue to pick up.”

While buying pictures is a year-round activity for most foreign distribs, markets like the AFM still are highly valued.

Majestic’s Guy East is launching a bunch of titles here, led by Ridley Scott’s “Crisis in the Hot Zone” and “East L.A.,” gritty drama by Gregory Nava (“El Norte”) toplining Esai Morales (“Rapa Nui”) and possibly Jimmy Smits and Edward James Olmos. Negotiations are under way for New Line to pick up domestic rights to “East L.A.”

Also on Majestic’s roster are “The Rake’s Progress” from “Prince of Tides” producer Andy Karsh, directed by Bob Bierman; and Suri Krishnamma’s “A Man of No Importance,” which Samuel Goldwyn may release in the U.S.

Bullish on market

While some sellers gripe about depressed foreign markets and the plight of many indies overseas, East sounds relatively bullish. He figures thatin Europe the surviving indies will get stronger because they have found deep-pocketed backers (like England’s Guild, now owned by rich French conglom Chargeurs). As for Asia and most of Latin America, East finds distribs are “very competitive and (mostly) well-financed.”

Cinevisions’ Peter Hoffman is a big AFM fan. “It’s the most important market. It’s critical to do deals and collect (market) information.”

Foreign attraction

In some respects, maybe this bazaar should be renamed the American Art Film Market, since buyers are showing a greater appetite for quality foreign fare.

As examples, there’s plenty of interest in a new Gerard Depardieu pic, “La Machine,” from Polygram, as well as in Bertrand Tavernier’s “La Fille de d’Artagnan” from CIBY Sales.

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