AFM Kicks Off With 415 Films — and More Buyers

AFM's managing director projects that $800 million of business will be conducted at the eight-day market

This year's American Film Market kicks off in Santa Monica Wednesday with 10 percent more buyers than last year and 415 films up for grabs.

Jonathan Wolf, executive vice president of the Independent Film & Television Alliance and managing director of the AFM, told TheWrap that he expects about $800 million of business will be done during the market's eight days.

"All signs point that it should be a good market," he said. "But I can't be a weatherman."

He said about 1,500 buyers will be on hand and more than 8,000 industry leaders attendees. There are 69 world premieres scheduled at this year's AFM. Twenty-nine of the 415 films in the market are 3D.

According to Wolf, a surge in international buyers powered the overall increase in purchasers.

"Last year we had 23 buyers from China. This year, we have 35 so far," Wolf said. "And last year we had 79 from Germany. So far this year we have 103."

Sales companies are coming to the market, at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and Le Merigot Beach Hotel, from 35 countries. Buyers are coming from 70.

One-third of the movies are in languages other than English.

"You will have Japanese buyers buying from French sellers at the American Film Market," he said.

In addition to the market, this year's AFM is sponsoring a series of large conferences — 700 people each — on topics such as film financing, production, marketing, distribution and pitching.

Wolf said that attendees — people like film commimssioners, lawyers, bankers and agents, as opposed to buyers and sellers — have asked for additional content. That's what the conferences are.

"We're concerned about having to stop selling," he said. "Each conference should have about 700 in the audience, which is the capacity for the room." Speakers include Tomas Jegeus, co-president, international at Twentieth Century Fox, Robert Hayward, COO of Summit Entertainment, Hal Sadoff, head of international and independent film at ICM and Bill Johnson, co-founder and partner at Inferno Entertainment.

In addition to the large conferences, AFM is sponsoring smaller "industry conversations," Wolf said.

The "conversations" will be with Rob Reiner, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Kevin Pollack, Selma Blair and others.

Richard Rionda Del Castro, the chairman and CEO of Hannibal Pictures, told TheWrap that he is bringing three completed films — "Touchback," starring Kurt Russell, "Setup," starring Bruce Willis, 50 Cent and Ryan Phillippe and "Things Fall Apart," starring Ray Liotta, 50 Cent and Mario Van Peebles — and three new movies to the market.

"Everybody is excited to attend AFM, especially when you have high-end projects and action-driven projects with stars attached," he said. "But I know that many of my colleagues and myself are concerned about how is the market going to turn because many European countries are in trouble and Asia is in trouble as well, so hopefully the U.S. and the rest of the world will keep buying."

He said his company has set up 120 meetings in five days, "so we'll be very busy."

More information about AFM, including information on how to register, is available at the market's website, americanfilmmarket.com.