Out of fear of escalating costs at the Santa Monica location, among other reasons, AFM organizers entertained bids from other locations in the area. In particular, L.A. Live, a large entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles, was eager to get the annual film-TV fall trade show.
But the premiere U.S.-based independent film market will continue to be at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, with additional exhibition space continuing at JW Marriott’s Le Merigot Beach Hotel and with conferences continuing at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
“We looked into every other place that could host us, but ultimately decided to stay,” said EVP of the Independent Film and Television Alliance and AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf.
He said that several upcoming development projects in Santa Monica helped seal the deal. The developments include a 12-screen cinema complex (and Imax theater) from AMC that’s expected to open in late 2014 or early 2015. “It will bring us to 28 commercial screens altogether,” Wolf said. “They’re also spending close to 50 million to renovate the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and when it reopens we can show films to 2,000 people in a gorgeous facility.”
Additionally, according to an AFM press release, at least 700 hotel rooms will be added to the downtown area, including mid-priced hotels from Marriott and Hampton Inn; and a light Metro Rail terminal will open at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, a five-minute walk from the Loews, which will connect Santa Monica to Los Angeles and Hollywood. It is expected to be operational in 2015.
And, what, will the permanent Santa Monica location mean for exhibitors’ wallets?
Larry Goebel of Imagination Worldwide attends the market every year, and was pleased with the announcement. “I think there was a feeling of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
He did see some advantages to moving to downtown L.A., “with the growth of the theater circuit, and the hotels, there would have been a lot of synergy. But it’s a different environment.”
“We’ve had a good, succesful relationship with the Loews for 20 years now. I think for the international and East Coast buyers, there was a feeling that they preferred to stay in Santa Monica — it’s a different vibe and they like staying at the beach. I think there’s a comfort level there that everyone appreciates.”
Goebel added that market — which along with Cannes and Berlin is one of the top three markets for his company — is very cost effective. His company takes several suites at the Loews each year “We’re an L.A.-based company, so there’s a savings there. Everyone is very cost sensitive now, and I know they were working hard to make sure that it was still cost effective.”
Next year’s event will take place from Oct. 31-Nov. 7.