Fewer buyers to market

AFM sales, attendance off, but Euro spending up

Final attendance figures released Wednesday by the American Film Marketing Assn. confirmed what sellers at this year’s AFM already knew all too well: buyer attendance was down, particularly among Southeast Asians and Latin Americans.

On the bright side, European buyers, especially the French, Spanish and Italians, significantly increased their presence at the beach mart.

This year, 1,589 registered buyers representing 733 companies roamed the halls of the Loews Santa Monica, off 6% from last year, when 1,685 representatives of 774 companies were on hand.

At the same time, the number of exhibitors increased by 4% from 2,277 to 2,377. The figures don’t include buyers and sellers using the 1,000 transferable badges issued to exhibitors to provide temporary access for their unregistered guests.

While AFMA doesn’t track sales at the market, anecdotal reports indicated that sales, too, were off, particularly for low-budget films lacking theatrical poten-tial.

“I think we’re seeing the start of a shake-out period for companies with films which are not meeting their gap payments and not finding distribution,” said AFMA president Tim Kittleson.

Regional economic woes caused a drastic reduction in attendance by South Korean distributors, a key source of financing for foreign sellers in recent years. The number of companies buying product for Korea, was down 54% from 37 in 1997 to just 17 this year. Even more dramatic, the number of individuals representing those companies dropped 68% from 111 to 35.

The Korean distributors who are here are hardly in a spending mood. Sellers said they were being offered about 20% of what they were getting for similar films at Mifed just five months ago.

Attendance by buyers from Indonesia was down 63%; Malaysia, 55%; Thailand, 44%; and the Philippines 36%.

Distributors from Latin America as a whole saw a 13% drop in attendance. There were 14% fewer Brazilian buyers, 14% less Colombians, 20% less Mexicans and half as many distributors from both Peru and Puerto Rico.

The biggest increases were among Europeans, where 546 people representing 235 EU buyers showed up. EU companies accounted for 34% of those attending, easily the largest segment. Asia was second with 20% followed by North America with 19%.

Non-EU territories saw an 11% boost in attendance, from 90 in 1997 to 100 this year.

The daily presence of E! Entertainment Television cameras in the Loews lobby notwithstanding, press representation was down 6% from 299 in 1997 to 280 this year, according to the AFMA report.

“We were a bit tougher on accreditation this year,” said Mort Segal of DDA, which handles press relations for AFMA, “In years past some companies have observed accredited journalists trying to sell them projects.”

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