A man stands in front of the Loews Broadway 4 on the Third Street Promenade on Thursday. The theater is hosting screenings for the American Film Market, which is taking place across the city this week. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

OCEAN AVE — Independent filmmakers and distributors are circulating an online petition expressing their opposition to a proposed move of the American Film Market from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles in 2013.

As of Thursday afternoon more than 80 people signed the petition, which can be found at ipetitions.com under “Petition for the AFM to stay in Santa Monica.” AFM, one of the world’s largest film markets that brings thousands of movie industry insiders and their cash to Santa Monica each fall, is currently underway at its traditional, beach-side headquarters — Loews Hotel on Ocean Avenue. It runs until Nov. 9.

Those who have signed the petition include representatives with Atlas International Film GmbH, UFO International Productions, LLC, Recreation Media and Three Lines Pictures.

“I join this petition as Santa Monica is the best place for the AFM,” wrote Atlas’ Michel J. Vandewalle. “Having lived myself in L.A. for years, I find this area as the best and safest place for our international buyers to visit. Therefore I do not understand why there is a need to move it downtown where walking around freely is not really that obvious. It will restrict the people to meet in a open free way and disperse them all over town as not everyone will be able to spend money on the expensive hotels in this area.”

The Independent Film and Television Alliance, which produces AFM, confirmed in September that it was negotiating to relocate the 2013 market to L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The 2012 market would remain in Santa Monica.

AFM managing direcor Jonathan Wolf said no decision has been made regarding the 2013 market and that he is “listening to everyone’s opinions on this.”

The alliance pointed out in September that relocating to downtown Los Angeles would mean lower hotel and exhibition costs for both buyers and sellers and better screening venues at the Regal Cinemas and Nokia Theater — and that by 2014, there will be more hotel rooms surrounding L.A. Live than in the Santa Monica area.

“The L.A. Live district will allow us to grow all segments of the AFM — market, conferences and the celebration of film — and make the AFM more inclusive for the entire motion picture industry,” read a statement from the association released in September.

The Hollywood Reporter, citing unnamed sources, reported in September that the alliance began looking at other locations after Loews asked for an increase in rates it charges.

The authors of the petition noted that for more than 15 years, Santa Monica has been the “ideal location” for buyers.

“Its facilities and the beach have been praised around the world and they embody the prestige of the event, much like The Cannes Film Festival and MIP-TV, which boast a beautiful beach location,” the petition noted. “We, the participants, have become accustomed to come to Santa Monica for the AFM and it has become a yearly tradition. We are happy to perpetuate this tradition because we love the place and because it took us years to work out the functional details of attending the market in Santa Monica.”

The petition also asserted that the sales suites and screening rooms in the L.A. Live complex would have to be split between hotels and the adjacent convention center.

“This will divide participants who will have to run all day long in order to attend to their meetings,” the site read. “This will simply be exhausting, not to mention creating a more stressful environment generally. And, as a consequence, participants may choose to shorten their stay which will deeply affect the business of the market. A less competitive market will lead to less attendance and, ultimately, to the extinction of the market.”

The petition also noted that the Independent Spirit Awards tried in 2010 to move from Santa Monica to downtown L.A., but then moved back to the beach last year.

“We do not want to be parked in soulless spaces in the middle of a crowded downtown L.A.,” it said. “We want to meet and do our business serenely if possible. Comfort and prestige are the keys to a successful market.”

City officials are concerned about a possible move to downtown Los Angeles. AFM, a nonprofit trade organization representing independent film companies from more than 22 countries, is not only a chance for filmmakers to strike it rich, it is also an opportunity for local businesses to get an influx of cash during the fall when things tend to slow down until the holiday shopping season arrives. Theaters are packed daily as are many hotels, restaurants and retail stores.

The market is expected to generate roughly $16 million in direct spending and about $700,000 worth of tax revenue, according to the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The AFM has been held at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica for the past 20 years.

Loews General Manager Paul Leclerc said Thursday there was no update on negotiations to keep AFM in Santa Monica. He said all parties involved are focused on this year’s market and he doesn’t expect “any resumption in discussions until after the market.” Leclerc has said that Loews would like to retain AFM.


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