New Line Cinema and the U.K.’s Entertainment Film Distributors have formed Material Entertainment and hired Robert Jones, head of the U.K. Film Council’s Premiere Fund, as its president.
London-based shingle will launch in the first quarter, with plans to produce up to four films per year.
New Line will handle U.S. distribution and international distribution outside the U.K. on Material pics, with Entertainment handling marketing and distribution in the U.K. for all rights. Entertainment has a long-standing distribution deal with New Line, and the two companies have worked together in various capacities since 1991.
Jones’ exit from his current post came as a surprise to U.K. film industry execs. He will step down in February.
Jones will hire a development staff that’s expected to work alongside and complement New Line’s existing U.K. operation, whose most senior production exec is Ileen Maisel, senior VP of European production.
Material is expected to concentrate on pics similar to the commercial fare Jones sought for the U.K. Film Council. These included Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park” and Mike Leigh’s “Vera Drake,” which is distribbed by Fine Line Features.
Material projects will be similar in size to such Brit pics as “Billy Elliot” and “Bend It Like Beckham.” New Line’s London operation is spearheading a number of bigger-budgeted pics, including Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials.”
As an independent producer, Jones’ credits include “The Usual Suspects,” “Hard Eight,” “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain” and “Dirty Pretty Things.”
At Material, Jones will report to a board that includes New Line co-chairmen and co-CEOs Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne and Entertainment’s Nigel and Trevor Green.
Jones was appointed head of the Premiere Fund in August 2000, as were two fund heads: Jenny Borgars tops the council’s development fund, and Paul Trijbits is head of the New Cinema Fund.
Jones’ exec job is considered one of the highest-profile in the U.K. film industry.
At the same time that U.K. Film Council confirmed Jones’ ankling, it said Borgars will continue to run her fund until March 2007 and that Trijbits will run his until September 2006.
All three posts were designed from the start to be time-limited.
“This is the beginning of a process of change and renewal for the U.K. Film Council’s film financing funds,” said council chief exec John Woodward. “These three jobs are too powerful not to have a limited lifespan.”
Woodward plans to advertise Jones’ post as a fixed-term contract of two years plus an option to extend for another two years.