Caution has been the watchword of the AFM as buyers and sellers navigated a course through a perilous landscape in the wake of the global financial collapse.

As the market headed into its final stages, only the bigger US sales agents were selling out as buyers sought to fill 2010 slots with sure bet product.

Beaten back by a resurgent dollar and fears over Hollywood’s shaky independent production and financing base, international distributors inevitably migrated towards completed product and projects with key elements attached. Others came but didn’t buy, unwilling to take any risk before they know how the economic crisis would pan out.

Many avoided pre-buys, doubting that in a market bereft of equity that some of the agency-packaged pictures will ever get made.

Films already financed were obvious hot sellers. Thus Paramount Vantage International sales chief Alex Walton reported a ‘sensational’ response to the crime thriller remake 13 backed by Barbarian, Oceana Media and Magnet Media Group and starring Jason Statham and Mickey Rourke.

Walton said he was close to selling out on completed titles like Overture pictures Traitor and Last Chance Harvey, while IM Global virtually sold out on Paranormal Activity which DreamWorks will release in the US.

Meanwhile stars continued to drive sales. There was frenzied business for Summit International’s The Book Of Eli starring Denzel Washington and Nu Image/Millennium’s Sylvester Stallone mercenary romp The Expendables in which he will star alongside Statham and Jet Li.

Mandate International did a roaring trade with a roster that includes the George Clooney-starrer Men Who Stare At Goats, Tarsem’s War Of Gods and the Nicolas Cage supernatural thriller Season Of The Witch, the last two falling under the supply arrangement with Relativity Media.

Jere Hausfater of Essential Entertainment struck a cautious note when he said it was generally no longer feasible to kick-start financing with a few pre-sales, while Walton said the tendency to launch sales solely on the basis of a screenplay was not always a viable option.

‘We need Valkyrie and Twilight to open well in the US too,’ Hausfater added. ‘That will provide a big boost to the independent business.’