Confab trudges on amid world economic woes

Despite expectations of slimmer fest and market attendance this year, Cannes Market topper Jerome Paillard says figures for his confab are down just slightly from last year.

“I will not tell you it’s up, you wouldn’t believe me,” Paillard says of overall participation just a few weeks before the start of the market. “Now we’re at about 2% less over the same time last year. But some countries are showing big increases (in participation).”

As of April 23, some 7,800 marketgoers were registered from 97 countries. The territories with the biggest spikes by that date were Egypt (up 82%), China (up 48%), Mexico (up 28%) and the Netherlands (up 17%).

The market floor is filled up. Among U.S. sales companies, there was a drop of just two exhibitors, with a total of 64 companies selling pics at the confab this year. Overall, American sellers represent 35% of the market’s exhibitors.

Market screenings stood at about 1,300 unspoolings, and organizers were still fielding requests. Last year’s feature screenings at the market totaled 1,505.

Paillard says some sales companies are sending fewer executives this year. “Those companies that used to come with 15 or more people certainly have cut a few people,” he says. “There are many companies that bring one to three people, and there we don’t see a decrease.

“In terms of producers, we didn’t see a decrease,” Paillard adds. The market’s popular Producers Network program is at capacity at 500 producers from around the globe. The Network offers individual producers a special badge rate, which includes breakfast roundtable events daily.

Market booth space was initially priced 2% higher than in 2008 but this was recently rolled back to last year’s rate. Companies that paid their market fees early were reimbursed the 2% hike. Says Paillard, “We needed to give a sign that we realize it’s difficult.”

The market had a price freeze in place from 2003 to 2007, so market exhibs are essentially paying just 2% more than what they were in 2003. “We are the cheapest of all of the markets, including Berlin and AFM,” Paillard notes.

The accommodating approach has served the market well. Several companies have moved from hotels or apartments around Cannes into its official exhibition halls. Canada’s E1 and Italy’s Filmexport are among those to have migrated onto the mart’s floor.

“We’re not so far from the costs of a hotel, but maybe more expensive than an apartment,” the market topper says. “But it’s a question of traffic; there’s a concern (among sellers) to be where the buyers are walking.”

IM Global topper Stuart Ford, for one, asked himself if he should be economizing on his market costs this year. He opted to keep his booth setup the same as in 2008. “I feel now more than ever continuity and reliability are real selling points,” he says.

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