“Scream 3″ and “Titus” haven’t hit the shelves of video stores yet, but if you stop off at the market on your way home today, you might be able to buy them. But bring your inheritance, because they’ll probably cost you six figures.
The horror hit and the Shakespearean tragedy are just two of the roughly 350 movies that are up for grabs (that is, if you happen to be an overseas film distributor) at the market — the American Film Market, that is — the annual international trade show for the motion picture industry, running here today through March 1. Founded in 1981, the AFM is now the largest movie market in the world, and organizers say about $400 million in licensing deals will be inked in the coming week.
The AFM isn’t a film festival — there are no awards, and don’t expect to see Sundance stalwarts such as Ben Affleck and Steven Soderbergh making the rounds. But it is a high-power event nonetheless, and this year’s market features the world premiere of movies starring (and featuring possible — albeit remotely — appearances by) Sharon Stone, Burt Reynolds, Mercedes Ruehl, Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, and others.
In recent weeks there also has been rumblings that director Martin Scorsese will drop in to generate interest in his forthcoming “Gangs of New York,” the indie movie with the whopping $80 million budget and Leonardo DiCaprio. Ever since Robert De Niro quit the movie last year, word-of-mouth has spread that the project is in trouble; Scorsese’s German financiers recently told Daily Variety that the director could restore confidence in the movie by appearing at AFM.
The backbone of the market are dozens of buyers representing international distributors who will be wheeling and dealing for the overseas theatrical rights to high-profile American studio and independent movies such as “Scream 3″ or the video and TV rights to lower-budgeted productions.
Then there are the premieres, all of them featuring recognizable, if not necessarily bankable, stars. The films bowing as part of the AFM Premiere Screenings series include: “The Last Producer,” starring Burt Reynolds, Benjamin Bratt and Lauren Holly, directed by Reynolds; “Picking Up the Pieces,” starring Sharon Stone, Woody Allen and Kiefer Sutherland; Estevez and Sheen‘s “Rated X,” a biopic of pornography mavens the Mitchell brothers, directed by Estevez; “Wayward Son,” starring Harry Connick Jr.; “Steal This Movie,” starring Vincent D’Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo and Kevin Pollak; and “Other Voices,” starring Stockard Channing, Peter Gallagher, Rob Morrow and Campbell Scott.
Lots of foreign films are also screened for North American distributors. In all, AFM organizers say there will be about 7,000 people attending from about 70 countries.
Most of the deal making takes place in and around the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, the market’s headquarters, while the films are screened at theaters located within a few blocks of the beach. In all, about 600 screenings are scheduled on 23 screens.