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Tournaments of values at the European film market

Roderik Smits (Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York, York, UK)

Arts and the Market

ISSN: 2056-4945

Article publication date: 8 May 2018




With film sales markets becoming increasingly popular events where the film business gathers several times each year, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that they should be understood as events where important gatekeeping process are taking place. That is to say, sales markets are the point where important decisions about films are made, where sales agencies negotiate access to international markets, and where they exert influence over the sort of access given to specific films.


Drawing on qualitative methods such as participant observation and interviews, the author develops a case study of the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin. The author analyses value creation processes at the EFM, focussing specifically on the disposition of exhibition space and the importance of film screenings.


Drawing on the literature about tournaments of value, the author demonstrates that sales markets endow films with significant values, exercising a powerful role over the process of enabling cultural flow. The author also demonstrates that there is a symbiotic relationship between the EFM sales market and the Berlin International Film Festival, providing a context from which films can generate attention.


The author provides new insights into film sales processes within sales markets, and the role of sales agents in influencing such processes. The author argues that sales markets exert an important influence over gatekeeping by creating social and cultural hierarchies that impact on the sales process of films.



The author would like to thank Professor Andrew Higson, University of York and Dr Huw D. Jones, University of Southampton for providing comments on various drafts of this paper. An abridged version of this paper has been presented at the “Challenging Media Landscapes” Conference organised at the University of Salford on 16 November 2015.


Smits, R. (2018), "Tournaments of values at the European film market", Arts and the Market, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 64-79.



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