American Film Market, an annual industry-only film acquisition event that shakes up Santa Monica each year with what the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates at $800 million in production and distribution deals, is currently under way in Santa Monica.

The trade show, with the goal of putting independent films in the hands of movie executives, distributors and producers, takes place Wednesday, November 1st, through Wednesday, November 8th, at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, 1700 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica.

Each year, special film screenings are held to give local residents a taste of what the film market has to offer. Though most of the film market’s events are limited to film acquisition professionals, any Santa Monica resident or entertainment industry professional can get a pass for the public screenings at, www .americanfilmmarket.com

The screenings will be held at the Santa Monica AMC Theater, 1310 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. Screenings will be held for the duration of the festival.

Inside the walls of the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel — the trade show’s main location — will be some big budget wheeling and dealing, says American Film Market executive vice president Jonathan Wolf.

“Some of the public is confused as to what an independent film is, and wouldn’t realize that films like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Wedding Crashers are actually independent films,” says Wolf.

Not to be confused with the film festival circuit where emerging filmmakers enter their creations in hopes of future distribution deals and breaking through to industry bigwigs, the films represented at American Film Market are sometimes big budget films by big name directors, financed by companies outside the major studios, that now seek to negotiate distribution deals for their films in local markets throughout the world.

The fact that the films are originally financed and created by companies not controlled by the major studios is what makes them independent, not the budget or content of the film.

“Saying a film is independent doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s quirky, genre, low-budget or edgy, as many people think,” says Wolf.

The American Film Market seeks to be the matchmaker between film buyers and film sellers. And with the $800 million in production and distribution deals organizers expect to result from the event, American Film Market is set to flex unignorable financial muscle in the film industry.

Many of the films showcased at American Film Market are financed by pre-sales, meaning that, before the film is made, certain distributors agree to buy the rights to distribute the film. The agreements are then used as collateral for the filmmakers to borrow the money to make the film, Wolf explains.

American Film Market was started in 1981 by the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA), which began hosting the trade show in Santa Monica in 1991.

Since 2004, the American Film Market has partnered with the AFI (American Film Institute) Fest, a popular film festival staged in Hollywood. This year, 54 AFI Fest entries will be featured as part of the American Film Market.

The City of Santa Monica is contracted to host the American Film Market annually until at least 2008, and Wolf says there are several key reasons why Santa Monica is an ideal location.

“Santa Monica has a couple dozen available theaters and screening rooms, it has the capability of providing 1,500 or more hotel rooms at varying rates, and it was able to secure us 250,000 square feet of exhibit space,” says Wolf.

“In addition to that, its in close proximity to the beach, there’s a lot to do in Santa Monica, and it provides a safe, inviting environment that buyers would be comfortable spending the week at. If we held the event in Downtown Los Angeles, people might want to leave the next day.”

The annual operating budget of the American Film Market is $4 million, with about half of that winding up in the coffers of local Santa Monica businesses for items including location rental, theater rental and set-up, furniture, equipment, food, beverages, signage, parking and meeting and reception space, according to the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, which contracted a study on the trade show’s annual fiscal impact on the area.

Over the course of eight days, it is estimated that the film market hosts about 8,000 international attendees who purchase 12,000 hotel room nights within the city of Santa Monica.

The city collects an estimated $400,000 in transient occupancy tax for the hotel services and an additional $100,000 in retail sales tax and related fees.

The event’s total impact on Santa Monica’s economy is estimated at $11 million, of which $3 million resulted from hotel revenue, according to the Santa Monica Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

The bureau calls the American Film Market Santa Monica’s largest annual meeting.

Information, (310) 446-1000.

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