Film Market Exec Tells Santa Monica to Keep Its Promises

Two major city projects hanging in the balance are key to the American Film Market's future in Santa Monica, says managing director Jonathan Wolfe.

An executive with the American Film Market called on Santa Monica Thursday to make good on promises to renovate the historic Civic Auditorium and build a new updated downtown movie theater—projects the executive called "the centerpiece" of the film market's future.

The projects were a big part of what lured the market, a week-long industry event for studios to close acquisition and distribution deals, back to Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel after being courted by L.A. Live in 2011.

The trade group that puts on the market, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, wants to expand its flagship event—which is estimated to bring $20 million to the local economy every year—to include a film festival. AFM is the only major market that doesn't also include a public festival, according to managing director Jonathan Wolf.

"Our goal is to bring a world class event to Santa Monica," Wolf said. "This can only happen when The Civic is ready for the red carpet."

Wolf's comments came during Thursday's 2013 State of the City Address as he accepted the Chamber of Commerce's "Economic Excellence Award Honoree" award on behalf of the alliance. They were remarks he has made in private, but never before in public, he told the audience.

Plans to renovate Santa Monica's Civic Auditorium, which in its livelier days  staged the Academy Awards and some of the biggest rock bands in history, were called off earlier this year because of city budget woes. It will close temporarily starting this summer.

As for the new downtown theater, AMC has backed out of negotiations to open a a 70,000-square-foot theater with 2,167 seats on city-owned land at Fourth Street and Arizona, where Parking Structure 3 stands today. City staffers are trying to find another theater operator for the site.

“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,” Wolf said in late 2011, when the market announced it had inked a new five-year deal with Loews.

The deal was not contigent on The Civic and new theater moving forward, Wolf told local reporters Thursday morning. But there were "promises and aspirations of city leaders."

"This is great news for Santa Monica and the Westside," then-Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom said then in a statement. "AFM brings another level of international visibility to our creative industry while contributing an estimated $20 million and many good jobs to our local economy every year."

In an interview with the Santa Monica Daily Press, president and CEO of the local tourism bureau, Misti Kerns, said city leaders might have to consider selling naming rights to The Civic in order to get it back up and running.

“We may just have to get more comfortable with having it be privatized from a naming standpoint,” she told the Daily Press. “I’m not suggesting we have a Staples Center in Santa Monica, but there are businesses that have that interest who could work hand-in-hand to get what we all want and need.”


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Glenn E Grab January 25, 2013 at 04:58 PM
the naming rights?.....big deal....let them go
Dan Charney January 25, 2013 at 09:56 PM
4th and Arizona is already packed- congested grid-lock- no one wants to go there- not only should the Civic be made into this proposed venue but it should remain as such year round- it's the perfect place for a cinema enclave. For years, the AFM was a working festival- I used to go to it years ago - it was never the glamour one- but more the hard core sales only type. To expand it and incorporate several other venues is a great idea- and what we are about - forget the gridlock of downtown - the Civic has parking- is an architectural building of importance to SM and we need something that isn't just another "I am in it for the money" developer unimportant catastrophe- which is all the city staffers, planners and council seem able to envision. We need what is being proposed here. Not just for the festival but year round for the changing media - it's a great idea- ample parking and the huge park near it- how awful that this city doesn't recognize a great idea when it's already done and right in their face- SM can and should become the international center for the bounty of changing media formats- a year round venue. Too bad we are so short sighted. Right on the AFM-
Dan Charney January 25, 2013 at 10:48 PM
and interestingly - I pitched something of this type - a festival of new media to a well known SM venue in 2009 and was told is was of 'no interest'- the following year- a major studio did the first one- and another indie group did one downtown -but done in a broad manner so it was not able to be marketed to target audiences- and another smaller festival for one part of the target audience interestingly cropped up at a local SM theatre- done by those I pitched the idea to- there is a huge and important idea here- way beyond just the AFM - but they could be the spearhead of it- SM would be foolish ( god help us ) to deny it's importance and let it go to another area of the city. Many see it's value- and someone will do it .
Rebecca A. Anderson January 26, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Any Underwriter or Commercial Real Estate Agent worth his/her "salt" would know that the Civic Center Building is Not "rehab" but is a "tear-down".
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Notice how these whiners they sold our City out for turn on the Council and start threatening at the first sign they won't get more and more. Maybe the Council will get the idea after awhile that the City should invest in its citizens--local, green, sustainable--rather than doing everything developers and tourists from outside want.
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 01:36 AM
I agree about the Civic. Maybe this organization is not the right one to do it, or maybe several should do several. That really sounds great. Another thing I like about your idea now that I think about it is even though the Civic is out of the downtown traffic--which is a good thing for the film festivals and for SM but is a bad thing for attracting lots of money spent in downtown--it is close to the hotels and they have taxis lined up all the time, so maybe it would end up bringing business to Main Street and Downtown if it were at the Civic. I went to a life-changing event at the Civic, private to me now. I have good feelings about it because of that and wish it could be working again. If there were reasons for it, the money could be found.
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Since I am neither, why is that, Rebecca?
Dan Charney January 26, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Yes- it would seem that "tear down" is the only language the RE industry knows- look at how hideously Mc Mansioned we've been by that greedy industry- not enough to make off reno the classic building - that is not acceptable- not enough money in it- there are things more important than money - but not to realtors it seems or city councils or chambers of commerce or developers- thus we have the mess we do now
Dan Charney January 26, 2013 at 02:28 AM
The film markets are big on shuttles- or used to be- since so many of the people live here and are from here- there will be cars- but back to the "tear down" cry of those who have no taste or interest in history - wonder what Venice or Rome or Florence Italy would look like if they had the Bloom and Davis council and this chamber of commerce- it would all be one ugly condo building or unimportant commercial building with the "usual suspects' in their retail space. California is not that old- we don't have a lot of old buildings- we should be preserving them - not tearing them down so short sighted, in it for the money people can prevail- many mid- century houses have been lost in Los Angeles alone- and were it not for class act restorers like Michael LeFetra- many more Lautners, Neutras etc would be gone- some things need to be important to us and we need to find a way to stop this greedy wave or irresponsible thinking and all their minions- as worth their 'salt" - hooey-
Dan Charney January 26, 2013 at 03:31 AM
Yes- the Annenberg Beach House hasn't hurt- if it wasn't for Wallis Annenberg- there would still be a chain link fence around a garbage heap- let's get her to hire the planning department
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 08:25 AM
Then speaking of shuttles and getting from one place to another, see two things in the article on planning Marina del Rey in this week's Argonaut, 1/24/13, p. 8.. One is that there is a huge theater complex with 72-foot floor-to-ceiling screens and 3D planned there. We should be looking at what is available in the entire region and thinking what is really needed for each event, not just hit-and-miss each-city-for-itself planning. The second is that all the Marina's hotels are at one end and its restaurants are at the other, and until 2000 there was a wide road to get from one to the other, but now, with over 10,000 daily seatings in restaurants and dining yachts needed to fill the capacity, they have a 42-INCH wide pathway to get to the restaurants from the hotels, and it is closed at night! The road alternative, Admiralty Way, is roundabout and has no pedestrian lighting. That's the kind of thing you end up with when one development and one project at a time is all people with actual responsibility and power to approve things look at. They may make presentations to the public and do all sorts of charade outreach pretense meetings, but the truth is, if development is running the show, it is only a matter of time until the entire thing is a mess and grinding to a halt. Developers do not have an overall picture. We need to be sure decision-makers do.
Glenn E Grab January 26, 2013 at 03:21 PM
if the City can get a private source to re-build or re-hab the Civic Auditorium they should do it, as long as they private source does the construction and lays out all of the money....who cares what they call the place,,,,how about the "Staples Center West"?.....
Glenn E Grab January 26, 2013 at 03:24 PM
typical grandious Hollywood "bigshot".....it's all about him and his cheesy awards show...
Dan Charney January 27, 2013 at 08:07 AM
Hey - any chance we can put up such a stink that we can re-route this metro rail to the Marina? I stopped going years ago after the gigantic hideous development ruined the nice feeling it had in places- now it's just horrible- as for the Film Market- he is right - and if it helps save the Civic- good- that is the sort of good solid business we want- short term- and lucrative- creative more than other sorts too


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