As the second Asian Film Market wound down on Thursday (Oct 11), the consensus seemed to be that Pusan is still a key meeting point for the pan-Asian film industry - as it was before the launch of the market - but has some way to go before it becomes a major international platform for buying and selling.

According to a final report, the market attracted around 3,600 guests, of which 1,600 were registered participants, which is roughly the same turnout as the inaugural edition. Around 460 companies from 50 countries took part in the four-day event, which featured 69 market screenings in addition to the Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) screenings.

A few sales deals were announced here and not all of them were between Asian territories - Korea's CJ Entertainment sold four films to Splendid in Germany.

But while the market was well attended and produced a handful of deals, most participants agreed that it was fairly quiet, perhaps reflecting a slowdown in business at other international markets throughout the year.

Although the same number of companies attended as last year, there were fewer sales offices spread over four floors of the Grand Hotel, and they could hardly be described as bustling. A shortage of buzz films in the festival also added to the slightly subdued atmosphere (see separate story).

Same as last year, most sellers said that the real value of the market was in starting negotiations that they hoped to conclude at upcoming events. 'We've got potential buyers from four territories for [Wilson Yip's $10m thriller] Painted Skin and will follow up at American Film Market,' said Freddie Ho, distribution manager at Hong Kong's Salon Films.

A sales rep from Japan's Gaga Films added: 'We received some Asian territory offers for Isao Yukisada's Into The Faraway Sky and Kwak Jae-young's Cyborg Girl. We hope to close those deals at TIFFCOM.'

And it was encouraging to see that the market had worked hard to eliminate some of last year's problems - the lifts were much less congested - although there were still a few grumbles particularly about screening schedules. 'We had three screenings for [Carlos Saura's] Fados all at the same time and all towards the end of the market,' says Latido's Massimo Saidel. 'They were all sold out, which is great for the festival, but not so convenient for our clients.'

Teething troubles and typhoon rains aside, there's not much doubt that Pusan, along with Hong Kong Filmart, is stilla leading event to rub shoulders with Asian filmmakers and industry execs. The market also received some high-profile visitors from the US and Europe, including producers Samuel Hadida and Terence Chang, CAA's Spencer Baumgarten and director Gore Verbinski.

Pusan's organisers are also constantly innovating with new programmes around the market such as Co-production PRO, launched this year and pitched as a mainstream version of Pusan Promotion Plan (PPP), and talent showcase Star Summit Asia, now in its second year, which introduced 14 Asian actors to industryplayers and press.

But the question that many industry execs will be asking themselves as they leave town today is whether Pusan really needs a formal market. Many companies, including most of the Hong Kong sellers and Thailand's Sahamongkolfilm, found it just as effective to attend without a booth.

For many industry folk, the main draw of Pusan is still the PPP projects and financing market. 'It's good for meetings on your own project but you also get to meet up with other directors in Pusan,' said Terence Chang, who was presenting a project scripted by Benny Lau and Eddie Chau in PPP.

Indeed there were grumbles from some quarters that, with all the pre-planned business activity and crowded seminar schedule, the event is losing its original spirit as a place for chance encounters with Asian film industry players and their films.

Perhaps the Asian Film Market's biggest problem, as it struggles to find its feet, is the increasingly crowded autumn schedule - now even worse than the spring market schedule - with Toronto, Venice, Rome, MIPCOM and Japan's TIFFCOM all competing for the industry's attention.

Travel fatigue, along with a lack of interesting new product as territories such as Hong Kong and Korea rationalise their output, may work against the market.

But schedules change and production output is cyclical. And at the closing ceremony, PIFF director Kim Dong-ho and market director Park Kwang-su were both adamant that the Asian Film Market is here to stay.

One curveball they probably weren't expecting is the rumour that the Tokyo International Film Festival, and accompanying TIFFCOM market, might shift to a pre-Pusan slot which would affect its ability to attract the international industry and new films. However, TIFFCOM execs attending Pusan said that, while a date change had been considered, the event would stick to its late October dates in 2008.

Jason Gray, Jean Noh and Silvia Wong contributed to this report.