A handful of high value deals for Japan and a good flow into the US eased the pressure. But the curtain-closing February AFM is more likely to go down in history as one short on hot product or deals volume.

Arguably the biggest deal of the week was the sale of Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist to Toshiba for Japan. Summit apparently asked for $10m on the $60m picture that shoots later this year.

Other big Japanese deals included Shochiku's acquisition of Mandalay's The Jacket, also handled by Summit, which at press-time was ready to confirm yet another Japanese sale for Down In The Valley.

Berlin Silver Bear-winner Lost Embrace was sold by Bavaria Film to Japan's Happy Net, while Gaga Communications pre-bought Renaissance's Pobby And Dingan.

"Business has been good. Germany is buying selectively and Japan is focusing more on smaller projects," said Liz Mackiewicz, senior vice president of worldwide sales and distribution at First Look International.

Both buyers and sellers pointed to a lack of new, high-profile, commercial pictures. "This market has been as dull as a football match between Liechtenstein and San Marino," said Eric Engelen, buyer with Belgium's Paradiso Entertainment. "I've only had an OK time, but then I'm not selling a $150m Oliver Stone picture," said one French seller.

Foot traffic was clearly down and street parking - normally a problem as far away as Pico Boulevard - less of an issue this year. Having two AFMs in one year has meant fewer buyers from some companies and the Oscars proved a distraction. "I'm not sure whether my buyers have left or simply taken the day off," said one seller. Many who had expected to close deals by the weekend were left sitting with unsigned deal memos by Sunday morning.

"There may be fewer buyers, but you still only do a deal with one distributor per territory, and we've been selling," said Arclight managing director Gary Hamilton, whose promo reel screening of Crash drew buyer heat here. "This has been our best ever market, but then we have brought our most commercial slate. And with a genre label [Darclight] in addition to the quality brand, we have seen the full spectrum of buyers.

The hottest territories include Russia and Israel, with the Japan and the UK increasingly competitive. Germany, Spain and Italy may also now be off the bottom. "In Russia we've sold everything we've got. Israel and Greece are doing well," said Arclight's Hamilton.

There were also a number of firsts at the market:

* Tartan Films made its first acquisition for its new US division, buying Anatomie De L'Enfer from Flach Pyramide. "This acquisition is a perfect example of the synergy that will extend between the UK and US operations," said Tartan proprietor Hamish McAlpine.

* A-Films took Indonesian rights on Renaissance's Pobby and Dingan in anticipation of co-chief San Fu Maltha launching a distribution venture there.

* E-M-S New Media is promising Germany's first theatrical release of a Korean film, when it gives a 50-plus outing to blockbuster Tae Guk Gi, Kang Je Gyu Films' war epic that is now forecast to gross $97m in its native Korea.

Product aside, some of the anticipated problems - currencies and the collapse of the UK tax shelter - have turned out not to have been such large issues.

Richard Guardian of Lightning Entertainment said: "the closure of certain UK tax incentives will affect portions of co-productions with UK partners, but these things are cyclical and partners will find a way of sourcing other soft money funds."

Becker International reported that its $10m Bollywood fusion title Marigold, which had been set up with finance from Grosvenor Park, had found backing from new UK sources. The Libertine, which had been scheduled to use cash from Grosvenor park's First Choice fund, instead turned to the Isle Of Man. And Arclight's Lord Of War, which had looked to use Grosvenor Park money, now having access to money from Movision, is still on schedule to shoot in July.

The slushy feel of the market has meant that US sellers have not been able to jack up prices in response to the weakening US dollar, but a number are reportedly setting prices in Euros. That is a move echoed by some European sellers. "We would consider doing a Japanese deal in Euros," said Thorsten Schauman of Bavaria Films.

"The exchange rate obviously has a bearing on negotiations but could have changed dramatically by the time the films are delivered, so we will see what happens with that," said Richard Guardian of Lightning Entertainment.

Glen Basner, executive vice president of international sales and distribution, said: "When people are buying in American dollars, which we are selling in, it gives them that extra bit of confidence to get to the levels we require."

While most of the focus was on finished pictures, a handful of projects at script stage also made an impression on buyers. "There have been four or five key projects at the market. Fortunately Pobby And Dingan was one of them," said Renaissance's Angus Finney.

In picking up new Daniel Bruehl-starring German film Jan, Juli And Peter (working title) Celluloid Dreams chief Henagameh Panahi said: "I have found something that defines the current market for art-house films. Hans Weingartner's film is cross-border, mainstream, contemporary and a search for identity that works across generations. Buyers are looking for films that are uplifting, meaningful and commercial."