'Quiet, steady' AFM winds down

Attendance hits all-time high; Internet refund due

Hotel management at the Loews hotel in Santa Monica issued a written pledge Monday to refund all charges for "Internet connectivity" in the wake of the disruption to service throughout the American Film Market.

"We have informed the AFM of this decision, and a refund of the fees collected from you will be handled directly by them," hotel regional vp and managing director John Thacker said.

Added IFTA exec vp and AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf, "We anticipated this action, but the Loews management had to finalize everything internally before we could act." No one could say exactly how much the refund will add up to, but some estimates put it at about $50,000.

Meanwhile, as buyers and sellers readied themselves to head home, AFM organizers said Monday that market attendance at this year's Santa Monica-set shindig hit an all-time high.

With two days still to go, overall attendance through the start of Monday topped 8,200, including exhibitors, buyers, industry badges, press and guests, Wolf said. Last year by the end of play, the market had seen 8,014 walk the halls.

Buyers said they were packing up their bags as the end of this year's AFM loomed. "The market is wrapping up," one acquisitions chief said. "Most people are heading out Tuesday. It's been quiet but steady."

Total buyers at the market as of Monday hit 1,573 from 61 countries, slightly behind last year's tally of 1,585.

Individual buyer numbers from North America reached 324, up from 316 last year, while companies repped here fell slightly from 146 in 2005 to 139.

The stats show overall decreases in buyer tallies spanning individuals and companies from the European Union and a fall in individual acquisitions executives from Asia.

According to AFM management, the total number of individual buyers registered from Europe reached 463, down 2% from 474 last year, while companies registered as buyers from the region fell from 216 to 208 this year.

Asia — spanning China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea — recorded an 8% decrease in individuals to 394, with company registrations level at 144 this year and last.

China's company presence grew 33%, while companies from Thailand and Singapore fell 40% and 45%, respectively. Company buyer numbers from Japan rose from 54 in 2005 to 59 this year.

The overall gains in buyers at the market also were bolstered by boosts in such territories as Australia, New Zealand, Italy and a slew of non-EU territories including Slovakia and Ukraine.

Organizers said Latin America and South America have posted the largest regional upsurge in numbers, with a 10% jump in individuals and an 11% increase in companies.

On the exhibitor front, a record 435 companies from 36 countries brought in a total number of 3,888 attendees, an increase of 2% from last year, organizers added.