IFTA reaches agreement to keep Film Market in West L.A.

The American Film Market will remain in Santa Monica through 2017, spurning attempts to move the beachside film market to downtown Los Angeles.

The Independent Film & Television Alliance said Thursday that new agreements will keep the AFM at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, its home since 1991, with the confab continuing to employ additional exhibition space at JW Marriott’s Le Merigot Beach Hotel and with conferences continuing at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.

“We tirelessly explored every option to ensure the AFM would have the best long-term home,” said IFTA chairman Paul Hertzberg in a statement. “We look forward to many more successful markets with the beach as our backdrop.”

IFTA had confirmed in September that it was negotiating to relocate the 2013 AFM to L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The association pointed out in September that relocating to downtown Los Angeles would mean lower hotel and exhibition costs for both buyers and sellers and better screening venues at the Regal Cinemas and Nokia Theater — and that by 2014, there will be more hotel rooms surrounding L.A. Live than in the Loews Santa Monica area.

But the prospect of a move from Santa Monica provoked resistance at last month’s AFM, including an online petition signed by reps of IFDC, Artists View, Constantin, UFO, W2 and Imagem and asserting that a downtown location would restrict participants’ ability to meet easily.

“This will divide participants who will have to run all day long in order to attend to their meetings,” the petition said. “This will simply be exhausting, not to mention creating a more stressful environment generally. And, as a consequence, participants may choose to shorten their stay, which will deeply affect the business of the market. A less competitive market will lead to less attendance and, ultimately, to the extinction of the market.”

The petition also noted that the Independent Spirit Awards tried in 2010 to move from Santa Monica to downtown L.A. but then moved back to the beach last year.

“We do not want to be parked in soulless spaces in the middle of a crowded downtown L.A.,” it said. “We want to meet and do our business serenely if possible. Comfort and prestige are the keys to a successful market.”

IFTA president-CEO Jean Prewitt said Thursday in statement, “Our stated goal from the start of this process has been to provide the best environment, resources and value for the world’s buyers and sellers and, after long and careful deliberations, we believe remaining in Santa Monica will achieve all of those goals.”

IFTA noted in the announcement that Santa Monica will be “transformed” by a variety of public improvements and development projects that will significantly enhance AFM including the following:

• AMC Entertainment’s cinema complex with 12 screens, including an Imax theater, will open in late 2014 or early 2015.

• The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium will be rehabilitated and expanded, providing a venue for red-carpet premieres and expected to be completed in late 2014.

• At least 700 hotel rooms will be added to the downtown area, including mid-priced hotels from Marriott and Hampton Inn.

• A light Metro Rail terminal at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, a five-minute walk from the Loews, is expected to be operational in 2015.

• A seven-acre park on Ocean Avenue directly across from the Loews is scheduled for completion in late 2013 along with an adjoining new mixed-use urban village with restaurants and shops for 2014.

Dates for the upcoming AFMs are Oct. 31-Nov. 7, 2012; Nov. 6-13, 2013; Nov. 5-12, 2014; Nov. 4-11, 2015; Nov. 2-9, 2016; and Nov. 1-8, 2017. IFTA said that research from the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that the AFM will contribute more than $100 million to the local economy over the next six years.

This year’s market saw the number of buying companies rise 8% to 718 from 664 in 2010; buying executives increased 7% to 1,523 vs. 1,417 a year ago; and overall attendance climbed 4% to 7,988 vs. 7,695 in 2010.

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