Beki Probst looks set to be able to celebrate her 20th year in the post of market director of the Berlinale's European Film Market (EFM) by breaking last year's records when the festival launched its new market venue in the Martin Gropius Bau (MGB).

According to the latest figures obtained exclusively by from market organisers, this year's EFM will have a total of 115 stands (77 in MGB and 38 in the EFM Business Offices) for 260 participating companies from 46 countries. In comparison, the 2006 event hosted 109 stands with 254 companies from 43 countries.

This year's edition sees 68 new companies - including 33 publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair umbrella stand - with a stand presence at the EFM for the first time. They include Germany's Action Concept, Canada's Christal Films Distribution, the UK's Ealing Studios and Icon Entertainment International, Russia's Golden Age Film Company and the US's Lonely Seal Releasing and York International. In addition, filmmakers from Serbia, Croatia, Georgia, Lebanon and Thailand are represented for the first time ever at the Berlin market with the Film Center Serbia, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, the Georgian National Film Center, DC Beirut/Med-Screen and Sahamongkol Film International, respectively.

The number of buyers accredited so far for the EFM has increased from 2006's 700+ to 850 from more than 50 countries, with acquisition executives coming for the first time to Berlin from Chile (MC Films) and the Philippines (Solar Entertainment Corporation). Similarly, the number of films registered for market screenings has topped last year's total: up more than 10% from 650 in 2006 to 718 titles from 59 countries, with 70% of them market premieres.

Registrations for accreditation by foreign film industry professionals has grown by 10% compared to 2006, most notably with new companies hailing from Asia; and, as of January 15, there had been applications for 2,021 Market Badges (around 2,200 in total were registered in 2006) and for 231 Screening Passes (about 340 in total in 2006).

This year, the EFM has 30 cinemas - 25 full-time and five half-time - available for market screenings, including three new video studios in the Marriott Hotel. Last year, the market had 27 cinemas - 20 full-time and seven half-time at its disposal.

EFM co-director Karen Arikian told that priorities are set for the allocation of the screening slots to the sales companies presenting films in Berlin: 'The first served are our standholders. After that are our regular customers who do not have a stand and are working out of a hotel (i.e. Telepool, Summit, Lion's Gate). Then we try to programme the rest as they come in.'

Moreover, market premieres are given priority over films which had been previously shown in Cannes and the American Film Market. Such a film 'is automatically put on a waiting list for programming after all others,' Arikian noted.

This year will again see the EFM collaborating for the fourth time with the Sundance Film Festival for the 'Straight From Sundance' showcase of 25 new American independent films coming straight from their recent screenings at the January festival in Park City, Utah. This will also be the third time the EFM hosts the Works in Progress sidebar presenting the newest developments in Latin American cinema with ten films from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba.

New this year are a series of Digital Film Debates being organised by the EFM's official and exclusive main partner Arts Alliance Media with Screen International to address timely questions and challenges surrounding digital film distribution. The discussions will be held in the Arts Alliance Lounge on the second floor of the Martin Gropius Bau.

The Gropius Mirror Restaurant is connected to the Berlinale's new sidebar Eat, Drink, See Movies - Celebrating Culinary Cinema which will be presenting a series of feature films, documentaries and shorts on culinary themes at the MGB's cinema each evening from Feb 11-15. Among the films confirmed so far are Doris Doerrie's documentary on the Zen chef and restauranteur Edward Brown How To Cook Your Life, Yoji Yamada's Love and Honour (Bushi No Ichibun) - which has its international premiere in the Panorama section - and Taggart Siegel's documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John.

In the evenings, the Gropius Mirror will be the venue for a programme of discussions moderated by leading German chat and cooking show host Alfred Biolek on the creative, hedonistic and political relationship of film and food.