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American Film Market to Stay in Santa Monica  

By Jorge Casuso

December 9, 2011 -- Santa Monica will remain home to the American Film Market (AFM) for at least another five years, bringing in an anticipated $100 million in direct spending to the beachside city.

Staving off a bid by Downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica sold itself on its 25-year track record as home to the premier event of the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), as well as on a slate of future improvements

The improvements include the renovation of the Civic Auditorium and a new state-of-the-art theater complex that will provide new venues for an event that brings more than 7,500 film industry professionals to the city of some 90,000.

"We're delighted, absolutely ecstatic," said City Manager Rod Gould. "It's not only prestigious, there's a lot of spin-off business. It's an early Christmas present for Santa Monica."

Film market officials said in a statement that they chose the much smaller city because it "is centralized and efficient, making it the easiest market to meet and do business."

“We tirelessly explored every option to ensure the AFM would have the best long-term home," said IFTA Chairman Paul Hertzberg. "We look forward to many more successful Markets with the beach as our backdrop.”

“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,” said IFTA President-CEO Jean Prewitt.

Misti Kerns, President and CEO of the Santa Monica Convention and Business Bureau who spearheaded the effort to retain the AFM, said Los Angeles offered lower hotel rates and longer terms.

"It comes down to the quality experience" Santa Monica has to offer, Kerns said. "The future plans were a big part of it. They know it's going to get better."

AFM Managing Director Jonathan Wolf enumerated the public improvements and development projects he said would significantly enhance the AFM. They include a new cinema complex with 12 screens, including an IMAX theater, anticipated to open in late 2014 or early 2015, and the renovation of the Civic expected to be completed in late 2014.

“In Santa Monica, the AFM will soon have access to 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 even a spectacular new park across from the Loews.” Woldf said.

Under the contract agreement announced Thursday, the AFM will remain in Santa Monica through 2017. New agreements will keep the AFM at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, its home since 1991, with additional exhibition space continuing at JW Marriott’s Le Merigot Beach Hotel and with conferences continuing at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, AFM officials said.

The push to retain the film market -- which was sought by not only LA, but by Long Beach and Las Vegas -- was a team effort, City officials said.

"It was definitely a combined effort," said Kathleen Rawson president and CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM). "AFM belongs here, and I'm glad that it stayed."

The AFM, which was held during eight days last month brought people from more than 70 countries and brought an estimated $16 million or more in direct spending and more than $700,000 in tax revenue for the city.

The event will be held next year between October 31 and November 7.


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