International attendees voice opposition to proposed move to downtown L.A.

Even though it’s two years away, a proposed move of the American Film Market from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is already provoking resistance.

As the AFM launched on a sunny Wednesday at its traditional beachside location at the Loews Hotel, about 40 signers went public with opposition to such a move via an online petition. Signers include reps of IFDC, Artists View, Constantin, UFO, W2 and Imagem.

“I join this petition as Santa Monica is the best place for the AFM,” wrote Atlas’s Michel J. Vandewalle. “Having lived myself in L.A. for years, I find this area as the best and safest place for our international buyers to visit. Therefore I do not understand why there is a need to move it downtown where walking around freely is not really that obvious. It will restrict the people to meet in a open free way and disperse them all over town as not everyone will be able to spend money on the expensive hotels in this area.”

The Independent Film and Television Alliance confirmed in September that it was negotiating to relocate the 2013 American Film Market to L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The 2012 mart would remain in Santa Monica.

AFM managing direcor Jonathan Wolf told Variety, “No decision has been made about 2013. We are listening to everyone’s opinions on this.”

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.

“The L.A. Live district will allow us to grow all segments of the AFM — market, conferences and the celebration of film — and make the AFM more inclusive for the entire motion picture industry,” said IFTA at the time.

Anchor Bay’s Kevin Kasha told Variety that AFM’s beachside location provides an alluring setting that would be hard to give up. “I just got out of a screening and the first thing that I saw was the beach,” he added.

The petition noted that for more than 15 years, Santa Monica has been the “ideal location” for buyers.

“Its facilities and the beach have been praised around the world and they embody the prestige of the event, much like The Cannes Film Festival and MIP-TV, which boast a beautiful beach location,” the petition noted. “We, the participants, have become accustomed to come to Santa Monica for the AFM and it has become a yearly tradition. We are happy to perpetuate this tradition because we love the place and because it took us years to work out the functional details of attending the market in Santa Monica.”

The petition also asserted that the sales suites and screening rooms in the L.A. Live complex would have to be split between hotels and the adjacent convention center.

“This will divide participants who will have to run all day long in order to attend to their meetings,” the site read. “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.”

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