21 French sales agents, 9 of which grouped together under Unifrance's umbrella, were joined by 8000 buyers from 70 countries during the 30th AFM in Santa Monica.
This edition was dominated by the strong confusion of a sector in the process of radical transformation and whose future remains unclear.
A sign of the economic crisis, along with the panoply of alternative digital distribution platforms which are yet to be profitable, the number of sellers was slightly lower this year. The AFM's organizers announced a superior number of buyers in attendance, but these mainly came from the digital distribution sector or countries that are new players in the market. The thirty screens available to the market offered the same number of screenings as last year. However, the sessions were poorly attended, an echo of the hallways of Loew's Hotel, which were often deserted.
Market results reveal that some French sales agents currently face distributors weakened by difficult access to bank loans, pirating, a decrease in acquisition volume, and the market price of television channels impacted by decreasing advertisement revenue, as the advertising sector has also been hard hit. It is nevertheless noticeable that some buyers have started to return, albeit cautiously, to the market.
A strong point of the AFM, this year like every year, was the opportunity that Unifrance's reception provided French sellers to spend a few precious hours with more than 300 foreign buyers of French films.
On the American side of things, the major independents (Lionsgate, Overture Films, Summit Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, and Fox Searchlight (USA)) are no longer really interested in foreign language films. The falling DVD market and low acquisitions of television rights, controlled, in addition, by two specialized cable channels (IFC, Magnolia), have limited French films at the only market for independent theater operators. Several independent distributors continue to buy (Music Box Films, Lorber Films, Strand Releasing, Zeitgeist Films, Kino Lorber), but for increasingly lower minimum guarantees and release budgets.
The alternative distribution models such as IFC and Magnolia, backed up by an important cable operator network and requiring high volume to supply VOD and television, currently allow exporters to sell many titles, sometimes to the detriment of potential theatrical releases.
A significant exception stands out among the rest: Sony Pictures Classics - USA benefits from its new position of strength to fiercely negotiate French film rights.