In its 35 years of existence, the American Film Market (AFM) has gone through ups and downs, mirroring the trends of the independent international film industry and the strengths and weaknesses of competing trade shows.
Over the years, the event has adapted well to changing business models and marketplace environments. Early on, the AFM depended on sales of pornographic films and later took advantage of a growing appetite for movies by the nascent private TV sector. Subsequently, along came home video, pay-TV, cable TV, VoD, multiple windows and, most recently, digital rights, remembered Irv Holender, CEO of Ziv International since 1971, who began licensing Lorimar product in 1979. Holender has been exhibiting at the AFM since the beginning--first as Ziv, then Ziv/Lorimar, GLOW, Liberty International, Fremantle Corp. and now with Multicom.
According to VideoAge's reports, in 1985, 60 percent of all foreign film sales done at the AFM were for home video rights. By 1990, theatrical sales resurged with 41.5 percent of sales, while video decreased to 32 percent. Four years later, free-TV sales accounted for 27 percent of the total, while theatrical was down to 30 percent. In a 1994 AFM VideoAge Daily interview, Alex Massis of Angelika Films reported that, "Television today represents 90 percent of our business."
By 2008, AFM became "primarily a DVD market" (VideoAge, Nov./Dec. 2008 Issue), but two years later went back to "television sales (especially for the digital channels) and the VoD window, followed by DVD sales" (VideoAge, Nov./ Dec. 2010 Issue). Then, in 2013, "AFM declared the DVD business basically dead, replaced by streaming." In the same December 2013 Issue, VideoAge reported that "on [AFM] opening day, Blockbuster Video announced the closing of its remaining 300 home video stores in the U.S., to be replaced by streaming service."
Holender remembered that the idea of a Los Angeles-based market came about in the summer of 1980, when a group of American content distributors, including Lorimar, began inviting foreign buyers to La Costa in Carlsbad, CA. The resort near San Diego was then owned by Merv Adelson, the boss of Lorimar.
The actual idea of AFM was first articulated that summer during a luncheon attended by five Los Angeles-based independent film distribution executives. They were meeting at the Il Giardino restaurant to "discuss the high costs, the bribes and corruption at the Cannes Film Festival," recalled Bobby Meyers, who was then heading up international film sales at Lorimar and was the "instigator" for a locally-organized international film market.
At the restaurant, the group (which included Bill Moraskie of Carolco and Herb Fletcher of Crown International), found itself siting next to Rocco Vigliotti and Budapest-born Andy Vajna, both with Carolco, who decided to join them.
Subsequently, as remembered by Lou George (then with Arista Films), he joined an extended group that met in the boardroom...