AFM back for year of living wirelessly

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"Wireless" was the buzzword among buyers and sellers at Wednesday's opening of the American Film Market.

Before a meeting was taken or a deal struck at the annual movie market shindig, organizers said that everything about it this year is "up, up, up." They tabbed the event the "biggest market in its history," with a record number of exhibitors, buyers, screenings and market premieres booked.

"It looks like this year will be the year of wireless," Independent Film & Television Alliance president and CEO Jean Prewitt said. "Last year everyone was talking about Internet licensing but this year it is wireless."

Prewitt said the IFTA is assembling guidelines designed to help its global membership put together rights deals that span Internet and wireless. "Our lawyers have drafted an addendum to our standard contract forms that allows the buyers to bundle them together or to sell them separately," Prewitt added.

But she warned there is much debate over what exactly "wireless" rights are. The definition often alters from territory to territory.

"I believe these rights will be back in the main form contract by this time next year," Prewitt said.

Organizers also detailed early market numbers. This year sees 435 outfits from 36 countries attending from film and television companies, financial institutions, sponsoring organizations and trade media. Last year's company tally hit 421.

There are 592 titles unspooling at the market, up from last year's 534, with 431 billed as market premieres, a rise from 382 last year. Both figures are all-time highs.

Total attendance is projected to be more than 8,400 from 65 countries, a 5% increase from last year's 8,014, the IFTA said.

IFTA vp and AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf said this year's market has been bolstered by the tearing down of trade barriers across the globe as more and more territories step into the movie market arena.

China and several Eastern European countries are among those joining the fray. Wolf also said the organization has noted a rise in attendance from Italian companies.

One of the most dramatic rises stems from Asian territories including Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and China.

"In 2001, we had eight companies from Asia and this year there are 61 signed up," Wolf said, pointing to the 700% rise as "the most dramatic."

But the rise was not attributed by AFM organizers to the death of former competitor MIFED, which last took place in Milan in 2004.

At an opening-day press conference Wednesday in the Loews hotel, Prewitt and Wolf were joined onstage by IFTA chairman Michael Ryan.

Ryan garnered the biggest laugh of the morning when he commented on the growth of the horror genre in the past two years. "There has been a lot made that went straight to radio," quipped Ryan, after being quizzed on whether there was a genre du jour at this year's market.

"It's popular, inexpensive to make and a good way to practice making movies," Ryan said of horror. "The AFM provides the perfect venue for our members to swiftly capitalize on the opportunities that change creates."

Organizers also reiterated their commitment to the strategic relationship with the AFI Fest.

This year sees 54 titles represented at both the AFM and as official selections at the Los Angeles-based film festival.

Said Wolf: "The primary reason for us to affiliate with AFI Fest is to provide additional exposure to movies screening at the market."

For the fourth consecutive year, the AFM has taken additional office space at Le Merigot, next to the Loews.
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