The American Film Market (AFM) is officially moving to November in an effort to force a two-market calendar and knock out MIFED from the annual market timetable.

Yesterday AFMA, the trade organisation which runs the AFM, issued a statement announcing its intentions to hold two AFMs in 2004, one in Feb and one in Nov. As of 2005, there will be no more Feb AFM. The dates for the first Nov AFM have been set as Nov 3 to 10, 2004.

At the same time, AFMA has sealed a strategic relationship with AFI FEST, the Los Angeles International Film Festival which takes place every Nov and which will be scheduled in 2004 from Nov 4 to 14.

AFI FEST and AFM will join forces in marketing, sponsorship, scheduling, registration and a variety of other initiatives. While each event will continue to be managed separately, the collaboration is an attempt to create a unified market and festival along the lines of Cannes.

Beyond 2004, the AFM has been set for Nov 2-9, 2005, and Nov 1-8, 2006.

"As a global trade association, AFMA's role is to anticipate and serve the long-term needs of the independent film industry," said AFMA president Jean Prewitt in a statement. "The November dates enhance AFMA's ability to create new programmes and services during the AFM while showcasing independent film in Hollywood in advance of the awards season."

The official date change comes after a year of speculation which has seen AFMA mulling over the move in response to changing market conditions and calls for a two-market calendar. "Over the past year, we have listened to colleagues and industry stakeholders from around the world. Today's decision reflects the broad consensus of the global film community," added Kathy Morgan, AFMA chairman and president of Kathy Morgan International.

Response from international buyers and sellers could not be canvased at press time, but resistance to the abandonment of MIFED is expected to be fierce especially in Europe. MIFED this year will go ahead in Milan as planned Nov 9-13. Screen International will have a full assessment of response to the date changes in this week's issue (street date: June 20).

Meanwhile, two festivals bound to benefit from the move are Sundance in Jan and especially Berlin in Feb, which already has plans to expand its European Film Market. AFM February was the traditional screening venue for many of the Sundance films, so an increased presence of foreign buyers and increased levels of business should be expected in Park City 2005.

AFI FEST is one of two prestigious film festivals held in Los Angeles each year (the other LAFF is currently going on). Showcasing a wide selection of US and international films, the festival offers a significant entree for movies into the awards season such as Monster's Ball which world premiered there in 2001 and Antwone Fisher and Ararat which had their US premieres there in 2002.

"AFM and AFI FEST complement each other perfectly," said Jean Firstenberg, Director and CEO of the American Film Institute. "AFI FEST is an international festival showcasing the finest in world cinema, while the AFM is an international film market well-known for its dynamic business environment. A collaboration between these leading cultural and commercial organizations demonstrates unity to the world film community while creating an exceptional global film event for the people of Los Angeles."

"We are very excited about our partnership with AFI FEST and the unlimited opportunities to expand both events," added AFMA executive vice president and AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf. "It will also create a new marketing platform for producers and distributors at AFM."