New AFM buyers swarm, sellers drop off

More acquisitions execs sift through less pics

The upcoming American Film Market could see a surprising spike in buyers, while sales stands and the number of films screening are on a downward trend.

In the run-up to the market, AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf reports that the number of accreditation requests for new buyer companies has doubled. “More than 80 new companies in the last three months have asked to come to the AFM for the first time,” he reports. “We’ve never had that many companies asking to be accredited as new buyers. And it’s from all over — from more than 30 countries.”

Normally, AFM sees about 40 new buying companies. (Last year, individual buyers reached 1,527 from about 671 companies.)

Wolf suspects that many of these acquisitions execs will be seeking product for TV and homevid platforms. “It’s less likely for people to pop up on the scene for theatrical than homevideo.”

AFM puts buyers through a strict vetting process before they’re granted access to the mart. “If a company wants to get accredited as a buyer, it has to name IFTA member companies that it’s done business with,” the market topper ensures. “Then we confirm that.”

Wolf also didn’t expect the number of films screening to be as high as it is this year — 445. “Next year, I think we’ll see that number at 410 or 420,” he predicts. When the market’s supply and demand was in sync, Wolf says, AFM unspooled about 400 films.

On the sales side, AFM has seen a reduction of about 29 companies as of Oct. 20. That’s a drop of 7% over last year. The dip was anticipated, says Wolf. “There was a bubble in filmmaking, and we’re now contracting back to equilibrium.

“We were not excited about the AFM growth,” Wolf admits, noting that it meant pricing went soft. “We are not going to build a business model around a bigger AFM. It was like a life raft — someone had to be pushed out.”

So this year, it means that the sales-floor creep into Le Merigot hotel will subside a tad. Market stands will be spread across Le Merigot’s first floor and half of the second, in addition to the main AFM space at the Loews hotel. At the height of the boom years, in 2004, the Loews filled up and three full floors of Le Merigot were needed for sales stands.

“We’re still above those levels of five to six years ago,” Wolf adds. “The thing about the AFM is that we’ve never had huge tectonic shifts in one year. It’s always been gradual.”

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