EFM struggles to match 2008 attendance

While the world’s financial crisis may mean fewer participants at next month’s Berlinale’s European Film Market, it hasn’t hampered reservations at the mart’s main venues.

Both the Martin Gropius Bau and the EFM Marriott Offices were completely booked by mid-December, with early figures showing 386 exhibitors (309 in the former and 77 in the latter). Nearly 700 buyers have registered to check out the 340 films so far set to screen at the event, which runs Feb. 5-12.

The preliminary figures are still well below the 430 exhibitors, 1,073 buyers and 732 films at the 2008 market, but do not include companies based in local hotels, which last year numbered an extra 60.

While organizers acknowledge that a dip in attendance is likely, they are not worried.

“Right now it’s difficult to say,” market topper Beki Probst told Daily Variety, “but if we don’t reach (last year’s) numbers, I will not cry. We’ll have quality instead of quantity. We don’t want overkill.”

Probst said fewer films would mean buyers would have more time to devote to each film. “Otherwise, you take the risk that buyers run from one cinema to another, changing screens every 10 minutes and unable to give films a chance.”

On Tuesday, the EFM announced a slew of new events and services that Probst said will make life easier for marketgoers this year.

Among them is Meet the Docs, a documentary film initiative based at the Marriott and set up with the European Documentary Network that gives information on all the docs screening at the fest. Targeted at filmmakers and buyers, it’s the latest cooperative event following such initiatives as Books at Berlinale, Straight From Sundance and Latin American Works-in-Progress.

Making screenings easier and more efficient will be E-Cinema, which gives access to an online catalog of all digital and video films.

In the EFM Industry Debates, experts will tackle industry issues and developments. The panel events are presented by Commerzbank with a number of publications, including Variety.

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