DOWNTOWN — A favorite feature of the American Film Market will be absent for a second straight year as public screenings are cut again from one of the world’s largest business conferences for the movie industry.
The advanced general audience showings were long considered a community perk for an annual week-long event that draws thousands of producers and distributors who attend hundreds of screenings in theaters across the city, taking over about two dozen screens. The conferences started on Wednesday and will go through Nov. 11.
AFM, which was founded 28 years ago, has been hosted almost continuously in Santa Monica since 1991. The public screenings were added in 2003.
“Throughout most of this decade, our distributors have opened hundreds of their screenings to the community for free,” Jonathan Wolf, the managing director for AFM, said. “However, due to a lack of films that distributors were able to expose to the public in advance of their commercial release, we did not have public screenings in 2008 or 2009.
Wolf added that the public previews will return if there are sufficient films available for future AFMs.
Misti Kerns, the president and CEO of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there are not as many films produced these days and as a result fewer available for the public to view in advance.
“This is another tentacle of the economic crisis going on,” Kerns said.
Kerns said that her office has not received calls of concern from the community about the elimination of the public screenings the past two years .
“There is a small number of really interested die hard [viewers] that might be affected by this, which is unfortunate,” Kerns said. “But if they really understand the film industry they would understand that there is nothing we can do.”
Bill Davids is among the members of the community who attended some of the public screenings in the past, which he said ranged from made for DVD movies to foreign and independent films that would be good enough for regular runs in specialty theaters.
Davids said he has contacted city officials, the CVB and the Bayside District Corp. about lobbying to bring back the public screenings.
“It’s just a major disappointment that the public has been excluded from the event,” Davids said.
AFM is expected to bring out about 7,500 people to Santa Monica this year, boosting tourism locally during an otherwise slow time of year.