Mifed could be in AFM crosshairs

Market may need to partner with an existing film fest

Can the American Film Market put Mifed out of business?

Maybe, if the AFM shifts its dates from February to November, a long-held fantasy that’s now gaining traction among indie buyers and sellers thanks to a depressed market that’s looking to cut costs.

Sellers have long complained that they’re obliged to attend too many markets. Mifed, scheduled this year for Nov. 9-13, has long been viewed as an obvious candidate for demolition.

Mifed is something of a white elephant among film markets. It launched in 1960 with two editions: one in April for television, another in October for features. Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it was targeted primarily at the markets of the Eastern Bloc.

It’s held in the labyrinthine corridors of the Fiera Milano, where cigarette smoke wins out over oxygen. While few sellers feel they can skip the early November event, Mifed is known less as a showcase for debuting A-list product and more as home for video and exploitation titles. Its last edition, however, was fairly well attended and its promoters continue to insist on its long-term viability.

But one idea gaining currency Stateside is enlisting the support of a Los Angeles film festival to also shift its schedule to November, thereby supporting the AFM much as the Cannes Intl. Film Festival supports the Cannes market.

However, the Los Angeles Film Festival has staked out its dates in June and has no interest in deserting them.

That leaves the AFI Los Angeles Intl. Film Festival — this year slated for Nov. 6-16 — or, less likely, the Hollywood Film Festival, skedded for Oct. 8-14.

“It will probably take another year,” says one AFMA member. “At least until 2004, which is too bad because a lot of people are really suffering.”

In the past, AFMA’s position on the subject has been: forget it.

Asked for comment last week, however, AFMA seems to have softened its tone.

“As a trade association, we listen to the industry and respond to its needs,” says Jean Prewitt, president and CEO of AFMA. “We don’t impose a structure on it. Regarding the AFM, what is certain is that it will proceed in February 2004 as scheduled. Beyond that, we will continue to listen to our members and the global industry.”

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