Business at the AFM has painted a picture of a divided market. Tangible top tier product was in demand, as always, but most buyers and sellers were bemoaning one of the slowest markets in years.

Pre-strike jitters left their mark as buyers anxious to fill pipelines for 2009 and early 2010 were reportedly wary of committing to fragile projects with uncertain cast and start dates. Talent prices are at a premium, with actors committing to too many films and projects racing to get completed before existing SAG and DGA contracts expire on June 30, 2008.

'I would describe business as solid,' Stuart Ford, managing director of Los Angeles-based sales agent IM Global, said yesterday. 'We're experiencing a rush of deals to close later today or tomorrow.

'That said, we're happy to have our new locomotive titles, Nailed and The Prodigy, because normal trade is definitely tougher this year.'

Ford observed that his meetings schedule was packed out two days before the official start of AFM as buyers came looking to fill their pipelines.

'There's too much product out there,' Inferno Distribution partner Jim Seibel said. 'We decided to introduce only a couple of new projects so buyers could focus on that, and we're doing very well with them.'

Inferno's new titles are an untitled supernatural thriller to be directed by Iain Softley and the thriller Revelations with James McTeigue set to direct. Seibel reported heavy interest on both.

Hyde Park International sales chief Lisa Wilson reported 'very strong sales' on the upcoming horror film Tell-Tale. 'Pre-strike concerns were an issue, particularly with more than one company with the same actor 'attached',' Wilson said.

'The biggest new issue raised here, particularly from Spain and Brazil, is the damage done through illegal downloading of content. Clients are finding films they have bought are online before their theatrical release.'

Alex Walton, sales chief at Paramount Vantage, which is selling Chris Kentis' follow-up to Open Water and horror title Carriers with Chris Pine, among others, said the company had achieved its objectives. 'It's been a vibrant market for us. We've been especially happy how the line-up has been received in our first market.'

'Volume and prices have fallen for arthouse films,' said Fabien Westerhoff of Paris-based Onoma, which introduced Gerard Depardieu gangster film Kalach to buyers.

Westerhoff noted that more independent sales agents who used to specialise in upscale arthouse fare were turning to cast-driven genre movies and English language projects.

Some pointed out that the AFM comes at the end of the market cycle and is becoming a 'sell-off' market for older titles, which means that Berlin's EFM in Feb could be particularly robust.