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Market disconnect

Hesitant pic buyers may start to flash cash

The American Film Market got off to a slow start this week — in large part due to technical snafus that kept attendees offline all day Thursday and parts of Friday.

But as online access began trickling in, the market came to life a bit, said AFM regulars who expected things to peak over the weekend before seeing a precipitous drop-off in dealmaking momentum come Monday.

Asian wheeling and dealing once again looks to be the strongest segment of the market, as territories like Japan continue to claim a larger stake.

While buyers and sellers reported a “normal” pace at this year’s AFM so far, the market seems slower, perhaps precisely due to the market’s boom over the past few years as it has knocked Mifed out of the international scene, drawing more and more attendees from abroad.

“It was slower yesterday,” said Palm Pictures’ David Koh, whose company has distributed such imported fare as “Cronicas,” “The Flower of Evil” and “The Eye.”

“People seemed less eager, and it has been slower businesswise. But there are more people and more traffic.”

Buyers trolling the halls of the Loews and Le Merigot hotels said they wanted to start off the market cautiously.

“It just seemed like things were slow, the first two days,” agreed Kacy Andrews, CEO of Bigfoot Entertainment. “But it was picking up today, and I expect that there will be a lot of activity this weekend. Since it is such a long market, buyers often pick their spots and wait for the weekend before they show up.”

AFM runs thru Nov. 8.

Whereas buyers were once primarily penned in to the Loews, with Le Merigot next door serving as an overspill site for late registrants, the neighboring location now has three floors filled, and a directory in the lobby showing off its growth.

However, the raft of information — in the form of press releases, sales figures being touted, party invites and other promotion — seemed to be sharply down in the market’s opening days despite any expansion, thanks to the Internet connection glitches.

The seeming lack of foot traffic in the fest’s first days was likely in large part to the scads that were sent scurrying out of the Loews for most of a Thursday and Friday after Internet access wasn’t available throughout the hotel.

The snafu — due to the hotel’s not being able to handle the number of users online; the market was expecting 8,400 attendees this year — brought info dissemination to a virtual halt.

Market brass said they had “tripled bandwith” to accommodate this year’s record number of attendees, but that there had been equipment failures.

Usually once the market kicks off, particularly in its opening weekend, the deluge of press releases, invites and other electronic missives touting sales figures hits major volume. But this time around, the market seemed quiet, with the computer snags on everyone’s lips more than any screenings.

Market’s opening weekend featured a raft of swanky parties — from Focus Intl., First Look Media and Kimmel Intl. — among others. But some notables were sitting out the soiree scene as well. The Weinstein Co. had been a fixture here on the market’s Friday night since Bob and Harvey Weinstein ran Miramax, but this year the brothers didn’t have a get-together.

Market is still seen as a valuable meet-and-greet destination, and a place to preview promo reels of pics, but no heavy-duty acquisitions seemed in the offing as of Friday evening.

Some buyers are also said they were suffering from market fatigue, with the calendar so crowded this fall between Toronto, San Sebastian and Rome.

(Dave McNary and Patrick Frater contributed to this report.)

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