If German buyers were getting more sober at MIFED, the Japanese have made up for it, closing a string of multi-million dollar deals which kept the market buzzing and propelled brisk business on the smoke-filled corridors of the Fiera.

Nippon Herald Films was particularly busy, scoring three pictures from Intermedia (K19: The Widowmaker, K:Pax and The Wedding Planner), two from Miramax International (Scary Movie 2 and About Adam) and two from Summit Entertainment (Femme Fatale and The Dish).

Meanwhile Amuse Pictures took four titles from Miramax and Asmik Ace took two. Asmik Ace also bought Nicolas Cage-starrer Adaptation from Good Machine International and The Devil's Backbone from Sogepaq/Wild Bunch.

And while rumours swirled that Japanese buyers weren't jumping at IEG's Muhammad Ali project with Will Smith, IEG chief Graham King wasn't even in Milan to deny them, choosing instead to visit the Gangs Of New York set in Rome and then return to LA to continue the Ali negotiations with Columbia Pictures. His deal with the studio, he reminded in London, was by no means done.

For all the scepticism about the German market, German buyers were hardly inactive. Good Machine International president David Linde described the territory as harder but still clinched deals with Constantin on Session 9 and with Concorde on Series 7; he said that Highlight Communications was the only aggressive buyer - closing a three picture deal with Miramax International as well as confirming an output deal for Rastar movies with Rexmedia and single picture acquisitions such as The Dish from Summit and Doomsdayer from Quantum.

Despite the now obligatory moans about the two-city market, MIFED once again proved itself an efficient venue to do business. US studio buyers may have come for a couple of days at most but international buyers big and small were circling competitively around hot properties such as Femme Fatale, Capitol's American Zoetrope and Woody Allen slates, MDP Worldwide's D'Artagnan, GMI's Buffalo Soldiers, the high-powered Intermedia slate and two new films - Good Omens and Los Alamos - from Renaissance Films.

Meanwhile US independents stuck around, with Lions Gate buying four titles from Spain's Filmax, Fireworks snagging Innocence from Cinemavault Releasing and First Look Pictures closing domestic rights on Italian smash Bread And Tulips.

But in what looks like an increasing trend, their biggest competition was coming from the cash-rich cable buyers such as Showtime and HBO both looking to get exclusive premieres on their US subscription services. At the end of the market, StudioCanal was still mulling a domestic deal on Harrison's Flowers starring Andie MacDowell. Theatrical offers were in but its most lucrative offer had reportedly come from HBO.