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Channel 4, Oz feevee player pact for pix

SYDNEY — Britain’s Channel 4 has formed its first international co-financing alliance with Australian feevee moviecaster the Premium Movie Partnership, which operates the Showtime and Encore channels.

Unveiled Friday, the deal provides for the pair to jointly back new Oz films through pre-sale financing. Channel 4 will gain mainly U.K. broadcast rights to pics, although the web will acquire theatrical and feevee windows for some projects, according to Channel 4 Oz-New Zealand rep Miranda Dear.

“Channel 4 has been interested in Australian films for a long time, and in an environment that is getting more and more competitive for English-language projects you have to get in on the ground floor and get in at script stage,” Dear told Daily Variety.

“This initiative will provide a new avenue for Australian filmmakers seeking finance for their projects. The joint venture represents a serious commitment by Channel 4,” said PMP acquisitions and development head Marion Pilowsky, who said the U.K. web was “a like-minded party interested in backing new and emerging talent without expecting commercial product.”

PMP, whose owners include Fox, Sony, Universal, Paramount and Tele-Communications Inc., has partly financed six Oz pics in production, including “James,” starring Paul Mercurio (“Strictly Ballroom”); “In the Winter Dark,” toplining Brenda Blethyn (“Secrets & Lies”); and “The Boys,” starring Toni Collette (“Muriel’s Wedding”).

In the U.K., Channel 4 has commissioned such hits as “Trainspotting,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Secrets & Lies” and “The Madness of King George.”

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