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The American Film Market flirted with a move downtown into the L.A. Live complex but now has elected to remain in its longtime home in Santa Monica, the Independent Film & Television Alliance announced Thursday.
They have made agreements to keep the market based at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel at least through 2017, and to continue using additional space at the nearby JW Marriott’s Le Merigot Beach Hotel. Conferences will continue to take place on the other end of Santa Monica at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
“We tirelessly explored every option to ensure the AFM would have the best long-term home,” says IFTA Chairman Paul Hertzberg. “We look forward to many more successful Markets with the beach as our backdrop.”
This ends several months of discussion and controversy over the possible move. During the recent AFM there were many buyers and sellers who made it clear they did not want to move downtown. There was a petition circulated among some of the market and conference participants to urge the AFM to stay in Santa Monica. There were even threats, especially from some Europeans, to boycott the AFM if it moved away from the beach.
The board of IFTA had begun to explore a move this past summer after negotiations with Loews broke down over a renewal beyond the current contract, which runs through the 2012 event. The hotel wanted to significantly increase the price it charges exhibitors for the rooms which are turned into sales suites for two weeks each year. That requires the hotel to spend days before and after converting the sleeping rooms for sales, and also meant they couldn’t book their regular guests.
However, after the AFM balked and the owners of L.A. Live made them an attractive offer to move to their complex, and into the adjacent LA. Convention Center, the Loews changed the hotel’s management leadership and returned with a better offer.
The city of Santa Monica jumped in to point out the benefits of staying in the beachside community, where they estimate the event contributes millions of dollars to the local economy. The Santa Monica Convention and Visitor’s Bureau estimates the AFM will contribute more than $100 million to their economy over the next six years in hotel charges, hotel taxes, restaurant and retail sales and more.
The AFM is especially important to Santa Monica because it is held in November, which is the off-season for the area in terms of tourism and beach use.
Santa Monica also responded to complaints that holding the AFM market screenings in theaters on the Third Street Promenade, and in two area hotels, was not adequate and didn’t provide an acceptable place for red carpet screenings.
The city pointed out that AMC Entertainment is developing a new Santa Monica cinema complex with 12 screens, including an IMAX theater, scheduled to open by 2015.
They also said the venerable Santa Monica Civic Auditorium will be rehabilitated and expanded, providing AFM with a venue for red-carpet premieres. Renovations expected to be completed by the end of 2014 will include a removable seating system that can accommodate more than 2,000 or create an open space for large events.
“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,” says IFTA President and CEO Jean Prewitt.
Santa Monica also provided other reasons for the AFM to remain. There are at least 700 more hotel rooms expected to be added to the area, including mid-priced hotels form Marriott and Hampton Inn. A light rail system is being developed, although it is unclear when it will get funding and actually be built.
The city is also opening a new park on Ocean Avenue across form the Loews that is scheduled for completion in 2013 as well as a new urban village with restaurants and shops they hope will open by 2014.
According to IFTA, the confirmed dates for AFM in Santa Monica now are:
• October 31 – November 7, 2012
• November 6 – 13, 2013
• November 5 – 12, 2014
• November 4 – 11, 2015
• November 2 – 9, 2016
• November 1 – 8, 2017
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