As Internet outagescontinued to frustrate AFM attendees, market organizers said that no decisionhad been made about compensating exhibitors for their headaches.
After Internet outagethroughout the Loews for most of Thursday, there was spotty access on Fridayand another outage on Saturday from 8:30 am until after 3 pm. The Loewscontinued to blame router problems and also the failure of a new wireless T1line that had been installed on Friday. Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel managerJohn Thacker said that the installation of new Internet-enabled TV systems inthe hotel could have contributed to the problems.
About 200 companies paid forin-room high-speed Internet in the Loews, costing $190 per connection(companies could have multiple connections). Many customers had requestedrefunds but AFM management had not made any official decisions.
"We don't know iftomorrow the problem gets bigger or it goes away," AFM managing directorJonathan Wolf of the IFTA said. "Until the show is over we can't clearlyevaluate it. But we're not going to charge somebody for something they didn'tget. After the market we will very carefully contact each company to understandthe impact."
The lack of communicationwas also a problem, with attendees and exhibitors left in the dark about whatthe problems were or when they might be fixed. "The frustration I have isthat we have been in a position of not having enough information and when we dohave information it turns out to be incorrect," Wolf said in explanationof the lack of information given to attendees.
Wolf said no decisions hadbeen made yet if the AFM would return in 2007 to the Loews for the 19th year."Any discussion about the future has to be based on assurances that allservices that we need, including t1, are going to be present for us," hesaid. Thacker noted that "we'll pull out all the stops and spend as muchmoney as we need to spend that this doesn't happen again."
AFM, whose separate T1 linewas fully functional for the duration of the hassles, had reconfigured itsregistration room with 10-15 workstations to offer exhibitors a backup. Loewsmade six computers available.
That wasn't enough toplacate angry industry attendees demanding solutions or rebates. Buyers andsellers weren't able to email confidential contracts and information, producerstrying to sign on sales agents can't show Internet-based trailers of theirprojects, sellers couldn't send emails reminding buyers of upcoming screenings,nor could they get online lists of prior screenings' attendees to follow-up.
"Loews charges so muchfor everything -- from gym usage to hot water -- and now they can't even equipus properly," said GreeneStreet's Crystal Bourbeau. "I think thetrend will be to leave the Loews in the future. You can't conduct business likethis."
"We're trying to figureout how to get deals done, nothing's working," said Caroline Stern atHorizon Entertainment. "We've sort of given up and started using ourBlackberrys, but you can't send attachments. The market is in its fourth day,fifth day including set-up day, so why isn't there an alternate solutionavailable yet'"
She shared many people'sworries that the problems could damage the AFM's reputation in the future."With so many competitive markets, how do you convince the buyers to comeover if they can't get basic technology and services'," she asked.
One UK-based buyer added:"This is a disgrace, if this had happened in a European festival theAmericans would have gone ballistic."