As uncertainty reigns over the future location of North America’s biggest film market, the managing director of Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel said he wants the establishment to host the event after the contract expires late next year.

The deal between the AFM and the beachside hotel that has served for many years as its home comes up for renewal when the 2012 market concludes, leaving a lucrative convention contract up for grabs.

Speaking to Screendaily this week, Paul Leclerc said he met with AFM managing director Jonathan Wolf on Sept 15 when he made it clear he “absolutely wanted to continue hosting the event.” Leclerc added, “I understood [Wolf] was looking at other venues, so we have left it there.”

Wolf and certain AFM and Independent Film And Television Alliance (IFTA) top brass, reportedly unhappy over high contracted prices at the Loews, are weighing up a move to the L.A. Live complex in Los Angeles’ revitalised Downtown district.

Shortly after the AFM ended on Nov 9 show organisers took non-LA-based IFTA members on two pre-planned tours of L.A. Live. Supporters of a move argue it will strengthen ties with the concurrent AFI FEST in nearby Hollywood and add much-needed glamour to the market.

However a group called Let’s Stay In Santa Monica has secured the names of more than 100 industry professionals who want to keep the market by the beach. They include Inferno co-founder and Venice Beach resident Bill Johnson and Open Road chief Tom Ortenberg.

“The reality is that Santa Monica is not an inexpensive hotel venue,” Leclerc said, “so there could be preferential pricing deals that occur Downtown. But we’re approaching the negotiations with the desire to keep the business here.

“We have to make sure that what we are offering is fair given the market we are in and given the history of pricing for markets in the past.”

Wolf has declined to comment on the status of talks other than to say that discussions with the Loews and Los Angeles Convention Center are ongoing.

Leclerc, who previously worked at a sister hotel in Orlando, Florida, and returned to the Santa Monica site in September following a stint there in 2000-03, said he was waiting to resume talks with the AFM.