If you had it made, this AFM clicked

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The global financial meltdown left this year's American Film Market more polarized than ever between the haves and have-nots.

The haves were those sales companies and producers touting high-end independent projects with topline talent in front of and behind the lens. The have-nots were sellers touting less mainstream or nongenre product who found themselves wondering where all the buyers had gone. The event ends today.

It seems that buyers have been able to play a wait-and-see game, with little sign of bidding wars breaking out on product. Organizers, busy adding up the number of acquisitions execs attending this year's jamboree, said initial indications are that there has been a slight dip in buyers from the U.S. and Japan.

AFM chief Jonathan Wolf said the organization had gone through its database ahead of this year's show to strip out some of the old names and people registered under the wrong category. Wolf said that accounted for the slight fall in U.S. buyers.

"Last year there were 54 companies from Japan, and this year there are 52," Wolf noted. "But there were 213 people from Japan (in 2007), and this year it's only 168 — so two fewer companies account for a 27% fall."

But Wolf also noted that while it might be harder for filmmakers to raise cash to make films because of the "global liquidity crisis," there are still few signs that people are displaying less hunger to watch movies either on television, through subscriptions or in theaters.

"I think there probably are representatives from as many companies this AFM, but there are definitely fewer of them," one European-based U.S. buyer said. "Last year there might have been six acquisitions executives from one company; this year, it's only one or two."

Said Myriad Pictures president Kirk D'Amico: "We're relieved that the market didn't collapse and that we've made good but not great sales. Prices are down pretty much across the board. It's like the housing market: You have to decide whether to sell or wait for the prices to come back up."

Said one New York-based distributor: "Business here (at the AFM) is just above the base line. It is shameless of these companies to be presenting all their old deals as if business was booming here."

Certainly, attendees seem to agree that the market featured a glut of finished product — numbers issued at the market start indicated more than 1,000 — and a sense of caution among buyers and sellers alike.

Wolf said the silver lining for sellers might be that the difficulty in raising finance for movies will mean fewer are made, which in turn will result in "a driving up of prices."
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