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To Suite or Not to Suite at AFM

You’ve decided to attend the American Film Market this year, and now you have a number of decisions to make. If you’re heading to AFM to sell, the question at the top of your mind is likely whether or not an office at Santa Monica's famous Loews hotel is worth the cost.

Market Uncertainty

Unfortunately, in the past few years, it’s no secret that market attendance has dwindled. Even before markets moved online for the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, attendance had begun to wane. With prices ranging from $9,900 for a small office up to $76,000 for a premium suite, on top of exhibition fees, travel, and accommodations, the market is by no means a small expense. In effort to preserve budget, many distributors have instead opted to conduct their market business outside the Loews in other hotels or rented properties along the Santa Monica shoreline. When sellers move out of the Loews hotel, less buyers are incentivized to purchase passes to the Lowes, and in turn, a decentralized market becomes less attractive to all potential attendees.

Given the uncertainty around AFM, it’s not surprising that many people are left questioning the ROI of a Loews suite, or attending the market at all. In effort to aid your decision making, here is an analysis of the different options available to you at AFM this year.

Your Options at AFM

Loews Santa Monica

The traditional choice for your business at AFM is, of course, to rent a suite from the Loews itself. Beds will be removed from guest rooms and suites between the 4th and 8th floors of the hotel to provide exhibition spaces at varying price points.

What you get

Located on the sunny shores of Santa Monica, a stone’s throw from the Santa Monica pier, the Loews is a glamorous option. There’s no question that conducting business at AFM within Loews brings a degree of credibility to your operations, and the spaces provided will be luxurious. Working within Loews will provide easy access to the goings-on of AFM, and you won't lose out on meetings with buyers due to concerns around convenience or logistics.

What it costs

Loews is hands down the most expensive option. The cheapest space available will be a standard office space at $9.9k. For a patio and ocean view, the office could run you as much as $15k. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can book a three room “premium” suite, with an ocean view and a patio, for $76k. Between these price points, there are a variety of options available around $20k, ranging from meeting rooms to connected offices, or smaller suites. One way to mitigate the cost of a suite is to share it with another seller at AFM.

Nearby Hotels

Fortunately, for those looking to sidestep the hefty price of a Loews suite, Santa Monica has no shortage of lavish hotels. It’s becoming increasingly common to book space in nearby hotels like Casa del Mar, Shutters, Le Merigot, or the Viceroy.

What you get

Similar to the Loews, hotels like Casa del Mar are grand beachfront estates, offering excellent amenities, fine dining, and ocean views. Each hotel will have a variety of suites, penthouses, lobbies, and patios well suited for meetings. Meeting outside of Loews may sound inconvenient, but after hours spent on the floors of the market, an escape to a secondary location for a coffee or a cocktail may be just what your buyers are looking for.

What it costs

A penthouse suite at Casa del Mar with a view of the ocean will cost you between $2.5k and $3.5k per night. For a 7 night stay, this will run you around $21k before tax. Though this isn’t a cheap option per se, it is significantly cheaper than a comparable suite at the Loews - $50k cheaper to be exact.

Unlike the Loews, you can book just a few days if you’d prefer to cut the cost of staying for the duration of the market. You can further cut costs by using the suite for accommodations for your team.

If you’re really budget conscious, you might consider skipping a suite or office altogether. You could book accommodations at any of the many other hotels located within a mile of Loews and take advantage of public spaces within hotels like the Casa del Mar, or Le Merigot for your meetings.

Airbnb/ VRBO

You may want to circumvent local hotels altogether and instead book a local property on the beachfront. The nicest homes on VRBO are listed for $1k to $1.2k per night. Think 4-5 bedrooms, pools, and grand staircases. That’s just half the cost of Casa del Mar’s penthouse suite, and about 1/10th the cost of a premium suite at Loews.

However, if you’re looking for something this nice within a reasonable walking distance of Loews, Airbnb and VRBO both come up dry. Unless you’re planning a large party, or are confident in your ability to convince buyers to walk a mile for a meeting with you, this may not be the best option.

If you’re looking for a smaller apartment or condo to house your team, and maybe host a few meetings, you have plenty of options around $200 to $300 per night within walking distance of AFM. It won’t be as nice as a penthouse suite, but it may be comparable to a small office at Loews, and cost only a quarter of the price while saving on accommodations.

Which is the Right Choice for You

Which option is right for you depends entirely on your priorities and your budget. If you can afford it, the Loews is probably the best choice. You and every other attendee will be spending time here, whether or not you’re taking advantage of their exhibition spaces or accommodations. You might as well save yourself some time by placing yourself at the center of the action.

However, if you’re budget-conscious, you can get an equally nice suite at any of a number of nearby hotels for a fraction of the cost, without skipping on any luxuries. You may even have the added benefit of offering a reprieve from the chaos of the market itself.

If you’re ready to abandon a few conveniences and amenities, you can save heaps of money by skipping the office altogether and taking advantage of public meeting places like the lobby of the Casa del Mar, which will have tables available on a first come, first serve basis. You may lose some points for your frugality, but this is by no means a bad option.

No matter what option you end up choosing, MOLTEN wishes you the best at American Film Market 2022!