This month's MIFED film market appears to have been hit hard by the terrorist attacks on the US, with the number of registered sellers plummeting by more than 26%, according to Screen International's figures.
Many of those companies may now cancel following Sunday night's attack on the Taliban regime. On Monday, tension was also heightened by an air crash at Milan's Linate airport which reportedly left more than 100 dead.
North America saw the biggest drop out of companies registering with Screen International for its MIFED product guide. Only 101 US and Canadian companies have submitted listings, compared to last year's tally of 148. The total number of companies registering has fallen to 222, compared to 302 last year.
The next biggest fall was amongst European sales agents, which were down to 88 compared to 114 last year. Companies from the rest of the world were at close to the same numbers as last year. The number of outfits from the Pacific Rim rose slightly to 34, up from 30 the year before.
A handful of additional companies may surface late - a further five companies registered after this time last year.
MIFED's Elena Lloyd confirmed that the number of people who have pre-registered for MIFED is down from last year's 50% to 30%. But Lloyd downplayed concern about cancellations.
"While the numbers of cancellations are up on last year, the rise is not all that significant," she said. "It is normal to have some cancellations. And while the number of people who have pre-registered is down, it's important to note that there is no economic advantage in registering early - it just means not having to queue up to get your badge - so the fact that fewer people have already registered won't necessarily reflect on final attendance numbers."
As news emerged about the air crash at Linate, however, tension grew both in Milan and across Italy. "Unfortunately, it just adds to the general gloomy atmosphere," Lloyd said.
Several buyers in Rome agreed on Monday (Oct 8) that they are now particularly wary of travelling out of Italy themselves, and are waiting to decide whether to attend the upcoming London Screenings. Reflecting a broadening sentiment, one local buyer said: "We want to see who [out of the other Italian buyers] will be going to London, before we make up our minds. We really wanted to go, but are just not that sure about travelling to the UK right now."
Lloyd also said that increased security measures at this year's MIFED will include more security guards and an airport-style metal detector at the entrance to the Fiera. "Everyone will have to queue up at the same door - there will be only one way to access the Fiera - and go through the metal detector. If necessary, bags will also be searched."
Additional reporting by Melanie Rodier