Australia has a new, sorely needed major film buyer and distributor: Hayden Film Distribution, a separately owned spinoff of Sydney-based entertainment outfit the Hayden Group.

HFD will handle 10-15 films a year, with its initial sked including the Kevin Costner-co-produced “Rapa Nui” and Brian Gilbert’s “Tom and Viv.”

Move follows, but isn’t related to, Hoyts’ decision earlier this year to put its distribution arm on ice, leaving only one major player, Roadshow Film Distributors. Since then larger indies such as REP have started filling the gap; Hayden’s launch gives Australia another buyer with major backing.

Hugh McGowan, formerly general manager of Hoyts Distribution, is managing director of HFD, and its initial release sked boasts a handful of titles from Majestic, which previously had a relationship with Hoyts.

However, McGowan is quick to stress HFD wasn’t set up to replace Hoyts. “We’re going to create our own market share,” he said, adding that there will be a strong marketing emphasis behind the company, with a lead time of at least three months planned for each release campaign.

According to Mike Walsh, head of the Hayden Group and chairman of HFD, the motive is to tap into what he believes is an increasing demand for strong films. “The need for quality software is growing, and there’s a lot of product out there.”

Hayden owns eight screens and various radio stations in Sydney, plus has plans for exhib expansion in the city. With his chief exec Bryan Curtin, Walsh has assembled capital backing of “quite a few million dollars” (the industry rumor is $ A8 million, around $ 5.4 million), plus a line of credit.

McGowan and Walsh say they’re also keen to increase the video impact of HFD’s pickups via a more vigorous sell-through strategy. Consequently they’re setting up their own vid label, and are soon to appoint a third-party distributor with a strong sell-through emphasis.

First release will be “The Fencing Master” in November.

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