Market faces sharp rise in screening requests

The film biz seems to be embracing optimism as buyers, sellers and producers head for the Cannes market in numbers trending higher than last year. But is it really optimism or is there just more product to be flogged than ever before?

At last year’s American Film Market, participants complained about too many films, with too few outlets for distribution. Berlin saw a record number of European Film Market attendees. And Cannes is the ne plus ultra, making it the must-stop on the market calendar.

All those films need a place to screen, and market forces have urged Marche du Film director Jerome Paillard to add three additional market screens this year.

He concedes that the volume and logistics were “a nightmare. We never got so many requests for screenings (as this year).” Paillard says that the organization had decided “many months ago” to add three more screening rooms. “For many years, I had the feeling that we can’t add more screening rooms because my assumption was that buyers can’t see that many more films. For years we had 30 screening rooms, so I was resisting the temptation.” Now, “even 33 may not be enough,” Paillard concedes.

“Even so, we cannot fill the requests for screening space. In fact there are more and more completed films that want to screen in Cannes. That is obviously a problem for many companies.”

He concedes that any growth at the Marche will have to be carefully orchestrated with a lot of input from the sales companies and other market orgs. “I think the market autoregulates this type of thing. Too many theaters — buyers cannot be everywhere. It’s essential that sales companies think about it.”

And it’s not just U.S. and European fare clogging the markets — the films are coming from everywhere, as filmmaking traditions mature worldwide and as more funding is available through private sources as well as government subsidies.

“China is growing but still very small compared to other countries,” says Paillard, who also notes that India will have a strong market presence this year, along with Latin American companies, whose new funds have propelled growth.

Indeed, a month before the festival sees Latin American attendees increasing by 16%, Canadian participants are growing by 13%, and Europeans are up by 10%. New countries hitting the Croisette this year include Macedonia, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Anguilla, plus the Palestinian territory will also be repped.

Although the market chief concedes that it’s difficult to predict attendance for 2008, figures dated April 17 show expected attendance rising by 8%, with 8,042 attendees, compared with 7,426 in year-ago figures. The final figure for the 2007 market was 10,489 — and Paillard expects to hit or exceed that number this year.

The Marche also is prepping an event for producers who are working on Spanish-language projects and a brunch around documentary financing. The mart’s Shorts Corner will include more discussions and partners focusing on mobile devices and Internet distribution.

The Marche’s Cinando website, meanwhile, is a year-round resource for producers, buyers and seller. “That’s something we’re working a lot with, and it’s experiencing strong growth,” Paillard says.

He also has seen a spike in individual producers coming to Cannes in recent years. “It’s not all about sales companies and distributors — we see more and more producers in the market. We know that in the world there are more or less 2,000 buyers and between 500-800 companies and 400-500 sales companies, and that altogether is 3,000 to 4,000 people, and that market is 10,000-plus … so we have a lot of producers. It’s something that’s not really new but started around seven years ago.”

This is despite the weak dollar and strong euro. And strong pound. And strong loonie. The list goes on. But Paillard is savvy — a single Cannes Market registration badge may be the only bargain at the festival, with its price of x312 ($499), up slightly from x268 in 2007.

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