By Liza Foreman | Thompson on Hollywood December 9, 2011 at 2:31PM
When news broke during the American Film Market in November that the organization was negotiating to move downtown in two years, the decision was met by war cries. A petition went around, as attendees remembered the loss of MIFED and nightly treks to the Milan eatery, Bagutta, for dinner. They didn't want the AFM to meet the same fate as the late lamented annual film industry trade show, which met its final death knell when the AFM moved its dates from February to November. All of a sudden, the Italian gathering was gone. No more.
Six years later the AFM organizers took note, and heeded their constituents' grumblings. Witness the announcement Thursday that the American Film Market has made arrangements to stay put at its current venue, the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, through 2017. That’s fast.
So, less than a month after the latest edition of the AFM ended, it was welcome news that the AFM is staying put. There will be the beach, the big wheel for the annual Santa Monica pier party, a few days of sunshine for European buyers and no need to battle traffic to drive downtown. (While Film Independent has moved its Los Angeles Film Festival downtown for good, after one year member complaints sent them back to the beach for their annual pre-Oscar Indie Spirit Awards.) “This is a good thing,” said veteran foreign sales rep Jere Hausfater. “No one wanted to leave Santa Monica, the beach and easy access to the Westside.”
Added Christian Halsey Solomon: “Selling at the beach is less of a bitch. I’m joking,” he added. “We will be happy to welcome buyers back to the beach.”
The new agreement will keep the AFM at the Loews, its home from 1991 through 2017, with additional exhibition space continuing at JW Marriott’s Le Merigot Beach Hotel and with conferences continuing at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
At MIFED there were many complaints about the facilities. The AFM organizers were keen to point out, in making the announcement, that there are new facilities on the horizon in Santa Monica, including a new 12-screen multiplex, a 2,000-plus seat world class venue for red-carpet premieres, more hotel rooms, light rail transportation to Los Angeles and Hollywood and a new park across from the street.
“We tirelessly explored every option to ensure the AFM would have the best long-term home. We look forward to many more successful markets with the beach as our backdrop,” said IFTA chairman Paul Hertzberg.
“Our stated goal from the start of this process has been to provide the best environment, resources and value for the world’s buyers and sellers and, after long and careful deliberations, we believe remaining in Santa Monica will achieve all of those goals.” IFTA president-CEO Jean Prewitt added.
The improvements are as follows:
- A new AMC Santa Monica cinema complex with 12 screens, including an IMAX theater, which is anticipated to open in late 2014 or early 2015.
- The expansion of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to accommodate red-carpet premieres. It will be completed in late 2014. And the renovated auditorium will include a removable seating system that can accommodate more than 2,000 or create an open space for large events.
- At least 700 hotel rooms will be added to the downtown area, including mid-priced hotels from Marriott and Hampton Inn.
- A light Metro Rail terminal at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, a five-minute walk from the Loews, will connect Santa Monica to Los Angeles and Hollywood. Dubbed the “subway to the sea,” it is expected to be operational in 2015.
- A seven-acre park on Ocean Avenue directly across from the Loews Hotel is scheduled for completion in late 2013, along with an adjoining new mixed-use urban village with restaurants and shops eyed for 2014.
The only group not to express joy at the decision were the 300-odd gym members at the Loews Hotel Spa and Fitness. This year they had to contend with swimming among the napkins, which had floated into the swimming pool; the Ealing Studios taking over their fitness studio, meaning that yoga took place in a freezing cold basement room; and the Europeans. “They weren’t so bad this year. They didn’t smoke half as much,” said one.
The Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau research estimates that the AFM will contribute more than $100 million to the local economy over the next six years. Confirmed dates for AFM in Santa Monica are: October 31 – November 7, 2012; November 6 - 13, 2013; November 5 - 12, 2014;November 4 - 11, 2015; November 2 - 9, 2016; November 1 - 8, 2017.