AFM Sets Attendance Record With Online Market

AFM Online Platform
Courtesy of the American Film Market

AFM Online Platform

562 exhibitors from 48 countries will take part in the first-ever virtual American Film Market.

The halls of the Lowes Hotel in Santa Monica will be empty this week but, online, the American Film Market is busier than ever. More film companies will be logging on to this year's online-only version of the AFM than would have set up shop at the Lowes in 2020, even if the coronavirus pandemic hadn't forced the market to go virtual.

AFM organizers on Monday announced that a record 562 exhibitors for 48 countries registered with AFM 2020 Online, which kicks off Nov.9 and runs over the next five days. In total, participants from 78 countries, including more than 1,450 buyers will Zoom and click their way through this year's virtual market. It promises to be the most global AFM in a decade.

With 465 films screening, there should be plenty of product to attract dealmakers, particularly given the growing appetite among streaming services worldwide — the one section of the industry that has benefited from the global coronavirus lockdown.

Indie distributors will also be on the hunt for finished films they can opportunistically open in cinemas. Films like Voltage Pictures' After We Collided, Anton's Gerard Butler-actioner Greenland, and the Liam Neeson thriller Honest Thief — classic AFM fare — have out-performed in territories where they have been able to open theatrically. 

AFM is complementing the business of screenings and online meetings with its largest-ever programming lineup, consisting of 71 on-demand sessions covering everything from the future of video-on-demand worldwide, to the new challenges of producing under COVID, to the ever-changing international pre-sales market.

Coming after the virtual Cannes and virtual Toronto film festival markets, the virtual AFM will be testing a new approach, with an online interface designed to mimic the in-person market, including virtual locations — industry offices, a location Expo, on-demand theaters — and a networking pavilion with 180 online tables, where participants can schedule meetings or drop in for video discussions on pre-set topics.

AFM Managing Director Jonathan Wolf is planning on an in-person market in 2021, coronavirus permitting, but believes the technology used for this year's virtual event won't go away.

"We don't believe in the idea of a hybrid market, but having one week of a physical market, and then one week of a virtual market — using the tools we are testing now — that's something I think could be very attractive for the industry going forward," he told The Hollywood Reporter.