Film buyers and sellers are pouring in to Berlin inunprecedented numbers in time for this year's festival and European Film Market(EFM), which starts today.

Buyer numbers are understood to be up by about 30%. Salescompanies are shoe-horned into the EFM's Debis building and scores more areoperating out of hotels in and around the Potsdamer Platz.

"It's going to be a bumpy ride," acknowledged marketorganiser Beki Probst, "but we will get through it all safe and sound."

With many of the films in competition already licensed insome territories, the buying focus will inevitably be directed towards theEuropean Film Market and its spill-over. With many of the US power players intown too, talking up pre-sales ahead of Cannes, it all points to a dress rehearsalfor a trading event whose full potential will be realised in years to come.

"Whether Berlin can truly replace the February AFM willdepend on the availability of wide appeal English-language genre product,"noted one buyer. For the moment, the Berlin market is not inviting that stratumof product: Probst says she "curated" her market to ensure a "mixed bag ofcommercial arthouse titles."

One of the big questions is whether the intense buyingmomentum at Sundance can be sustained. In Park City, the key drivers proved tobe Paramount, Miramax and Focus. In the days since, Miramax has shown no signsof slacking off, picking up a slew of rights to Stephen Frears' MrsHenderson Presents, even though the Weinsteins are said to be only weeksaway from finalising their exit from Disney.

Intriguingly, the brothers are said to be negotiating totake their recent acquisitions, and even upcoming Miramax releases, with them.

"Anyone who writes off Miramax is off their head. Harveyand the entire acquisition team will be in Berlin," said one of itsinternational clients. "They are loading up with films of different genres thatthey will use to give their new company a flying start. [Recent acquisitions] TheMatador will serve their video and TV division; Wolf Creek, whichthey bought from Arclight, looks like it is for the new Dimension; while MrsHenderson is next year's Oscar play."

Underlining Berlin's growing importance as afilm-financing platform, festival chief Dieter Kosslick is today expected touse Screen International's European Film Finance Summit to unveildetails of the "Financial District". This is expected to be a financialstructure with an impact that lasts longer than the 10 days of the festival.Tomorrow, the first titles to be backed by Berlin's World Cinema Fund will beannounced.