AFM: New Pickup Policy at LAX Draws Dealmaker Ire

@Patrick T Fallon Bloomberg via Getty Images

International film execs arriving for the American Film Market complain of a "shitshow at the airport" as new rules banning Uber and Lyft at curbside lead to long lines and extended delays.

For once, the biggest horror show during the American Film Market isn't on sale at the Loews hotel. It's in the parking lot at LAX.

The thousands of international film executives descending on Los Angeles for AFM, many of them coming off 10- to 15-hour flights, walked off the plane directly into more long lines. Execs hoping to zip into Santa Monica for meetings instead found themselves caught waiting and waiting and waiting to hail a ride.

“It took us a lot longer to clear immigration than usual, and then with the wait for the taxi, it was four hours from the time we got off the plane to when we arrived in Santa Monica,” said Ivan Diaz, head of international at Spanish sales group Filmax.

"After a 16-, 17-hour flight, having to wait again for another bus was just atrocious," added Dubai-based Gianluca Chakra of Middle East distributor Front Row.

“Already the No. 1 topic of conversation is the shitshow at the airport,” noted one veteran sales agent. “Executives are saying, 'Doesn't L.A. want us to come here?'”

At fault are changes to LAX's arrivals policy, introduced last week, banning almost all curbside pickups for taxis and ride-share services Uber and Lyft. Instead, travelers have to hop a shuttle to a new pickup area given the purgative moniker LAXit (pronounced “L.A. Exit”).

LAXit has been the subject of griping since it began, with many complaining of gridlock, packed shuttles and long wait times for rides during peak periods. Airport execs called the new wait times “unacceptable,” and as of 3 a.m. Wednesday will have expanded the pickup area to increase the space for cars and people at LAXit by about half.

It remains to be seen if that will help. But international film executives better get used to it. LAX is in the midst of a $14 billion infrastructure revamp not scheduled to be completed until 2023.

“We aren't about to stop coming to L.A.,” said Diaz. “This is still the world capital of the film business.”

On seeing the long queues, one unimpressed young passenger on THR's LAXit shuttle quipped, "Is this Disneyland?"

No, son. This is LAXit. 

Alex Ritman contributed to this report.