A boycott by AFMA-affiliated sales companies has reduced London's pre-MIFED Screenings to a shadow of their former selves and given MIFED a major boost. But there is now mounting talk of the AFM challenging MIFED to be the premiere autumn film market.

Next week's London Premiere Screenings sees the number of films showing fall from some 400 to 40 this year. According to organiser JoJo Dye of Fusion events some 25 companies will screen 30 films, giving a total of 40 screenings. "Obviously this is less than we had hoped for, but there are over 100 companies attending as buyers and several more will be in town but who have told us that their names must not be published," said Dye.

In contrast Milan's MIFED is bursting at the seams and seems certain to reverse last year's 15% drop in attendance. It claims to have heeded the years of complaints about chilly air-conditioning, punitive admission charges and ropey screening facilities.

Market organiser, Rassegne says pre-registration numbers show 438 films are set to screen compared with 370 registered at the same time last year. It has been able to restore its own pre-market screenings, abandoned last year after an abortive attempt to lure buyers to downtown locations in 2000. The Saturday screenings will be held in the Fiera campus and look set to be busy.

But a number of the same US-based sales companies which toppled London, are now talking openly about moving the AFM from its February slot to the autumn. They argue that there is not enough business in the independent sector to justify two major film sales events in Europe (Cannes and MIFED) and that the Sundance festival is increasingly taking on the role of the first market of the year.

AFMA's president and CEO Jean Prewitt, says speculation about an autumn AFM is premature. "We have received recommendations from various non-US companies and organisations regarding possible fall dates for future AFM's, but there has been no formal discussion of the matter within AFMA."

Many European and Asian companies who regard MIFED as their most lucrative market, feel strongly attached to the notion of a specialised market, rather than a festival with a market, in Europe in the autumn. But AFMA said it will continue to monitor the progress of Milan's new organisers. "As a trade association, AFMA will continue to hear from and respond to the commercial needs of its members and the industry overall."

The AFM is committed to its Santa Monica slot next February, but could mount a second AFM in the autumn of next year and then switch permanently to autumn dates. In either case Rassegne would find it difficult to react as the dates for MIFED are largely driven by availability of the Fiera fairground.

Melanie Rodier in Milan also contributed to this article