Sellers’ exit sinks London Screenings

Mifed gets windfall as bad film-financing climate blamed

NEW YORK — A consortium of top U.S. and U.K. sales shingles has agreed to bypass the October film market known as the London Screenings.

The companies involved include Intermedia, Miramax, Focus, Signpost, Pandora, Lakeshore, MDP, Capitol, New Line, Myriad Pictures and IAC Films and Summit Entertainment. These are the major players in the international sales biz, making it extremely unlikely that many high-level buyers will choose to come to London prior to Mifed, the Milan market that follows immediately on London’s heels.

After a tepid London market last October, Intermedia’s Jere Hausfater, president of acquisitions and distribution and a prime mover in the decision to abandon London, began organizing the consortium, along with Capitol Films’ Jane Barclay. Hausfater met last year with Mifed reps telling of their plans to abandon London in exhange for guarantees from Mifed of fair pricing and improved facilities (Daily Variety, October 10).

Reps for several companies said the decision comes in the face of a horrific climate for specialty film financing, and from the desire to save costs associated with carrying on business for essentially the same market in two cities over two consecutive weeks.

“It’s ridiculously expensive to do both of these things,” said former GoodMachine partner David Linde, who now runs U-based Focus with James Schamus. “It’s best that we concentrate just on Mifed.”

Hausfater told Daily Variety, “Forget about London not working. This is about keeping down costs. We’re going through some very tough times. Let’s give Mifed a real chance and see if we can make it work.”

Myriad’s prexy Kirk D’Amico said, “The main reason we’re part of this is that we wanted to save money and try to be more efficient with our time. This is an attempt to have a common starting point and a common end to the fall market race.”

Started in the early 1990s by now-defunct sales shingle J & M, the London Screenings came into being as a means for key distribs to view must-see, high-end pics prior to their unveiling at Mifed. By the late 1990s, many buyers were showing up in London, concerned that they would miss something vital. The sales companies came to screen all their offerings in venues around London’s Piccadilly Circus, rather than just their top projects, making London and Mifed essentially the same market, but split into two radically different locales.

Worldwide buyers and sellers complained about the difficulty of beginning a business transaction in London, only to have to wait until Milan to complete it.

In the past few years, the London Screenings had grown competitive with Mifed, a market many buyers and sellers viewed as too chaotic.

London’s dissolution is a victory for Mifed organizers, who annually sought to quell criticism of one kind or another.

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