Will Berlin be able toaccommodate the pent-up demand among sales companies here for a full-fledgedmarket next February'

That's the question thathas been on so many lips at the current AFM, whose new November slot has joltedthe film-buying calendar out of its historic rhythm. Already a divide isemerging among those who favour a select mini-market in Berlin for topdistributors and those who would stomach the costs of a third market outsideCannes and the AFM in order to complete sales of finished pictures. The factthat both Cannes and Berlin are pushing to accept market premieres only attheir events has heightened that tension.

"People haven't fully recognized the gap thatthere is going to be in February. There will be a lot of pressure on Berlin tobe an all-out spring market, without it necessarily having the right venue tosupport that," said Renaissance chief Angus Finney.

Berlin market organisers haveunveiled stunning mock-ups of the new screening and industry facilities thatwill be available in 2006 at the Martin Gropius Bau. But before that, the 2005edition of the market looks set to strain at the seams.

The problem appears to stemfrom the unwillingness of the European Film Market (EFM) to completely takeover the role of the old February AFM. "We want to make sure that we keepthe market for the kind of companies that have films in the Berlinfestival," EFM chief Beki Probst this week said. "We want toexercise control and ensure quality and not have a market that is likewildfire."

Berlin is preparing to makemore space available in the Debis building with the cafe being movedaside and the "German Boulevard" being rearranged in two decks, butindustry sources suggest that this may not be enough to satisfy the need for salesand screenings space.

Timo Lahtinen ofDenmark's Smile Entertainment, is typical of the feeling among many atthe AFM this year: "Every seller here, including those who would notnormally have films in the festival, is gearing up to be in Berlin in February."

"Berlin is the most talked about topic here,"added Myriad chief Kirk D'Amico "It is clear that everyone willhave to be at Berlin, even if we have to screen footage in hotel lobbies on ourlaptops.

So while the festival mayactively discourage it, a mass invasion of hotels seems likely. "The AFMand Mifed would love to have the kind of problem that the Berlin market isgoing to have next year," said Dario Bergesio, head of Frenchdistributor, Surreal Films.

The need for a strong Februarywas underlined at this week's first autumn AFM, which seemed slightly outof synch with the normal product supply and buying cycle. Many sellers pointedto a sense of "weirdness" this year until everyone has learnt tosettle into the new groove.

"Everyone is a bitconfused. Toronto was packed with people doing deals on art-house films and anysales stemming from there were probably completed by Mifed. It is not now butin February that people normally launch their really big films. Without the AFMthen the venue for that is going to be Berlin. Berlin could be veryuncomfortable because it is not set up to cope," said Claire Taylor ofRenaissance.