Universal, Focus link up with UFA

Trio agree distribution, co-production pact

Universal Pictures Intl. and Focus Features Intl. have inked a wide-ranging distribution and co-production agreement with RTL Group producer UFA Cinema, which launched last year.

UPI will exclusively handle theatrical and home entertainment distribution for UFA in Germany, Austria and Switzerland under the UFA Cinema label and likely include between six and eight pics a year.

FFI will co-produce selected English-language UFA productions and will distribute individual titles internationally.

Repped by Andrea Willson in Berlin, FFI is eager to expand in Germany by producing local language films and will co-produce some projects with UFA.

“The importance of German cinema has grown in recent years as German films are enjoying an increasingly large audience share at home and abroad,” said Christian Grass, FFI’s co-CEO. “The partnership allows us to make commercial movies with talented local producers and filmmakers, which can appeal to a local and global audience, and create a significant and lasting production and distribution presence in this key market.”

The first titles to be distribbed by UPI next year include “Dschungelkind” (Jungle Child), Roland Suso Richter’s adaptation of Sabine Kuegler’s bestseller about her childhood in Papua New Guinea; “Hanni and Nanni,” Christine Hartmann’s adaptation of Enid Blyton’s children’s book series “St. Clares”; “Tauben auf dem Dach” (Pigeons on the Roof), Otto Alexander Jahrreiss’ relationship comedy; and “Teufelskicker,” a family film about soccer-playing kids, from helmer Granz Henman.

UFA CEO Thomas Peter Friedl called the partnership “a great foundation for the distribution of our wide portfolio of German and English-language films.”

The partnership continues Universal’s strategy of building international alliances in key markets with notable players.

It has pacts with Cha Cha Cha, the shingle co-headed by Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro; Russian director/producer Timur Bekmambetov and his Moscow-based Bazelevs Prods.; Bill Kong’s Hong Kong shingle Edko Films; and Italian company Cattleya.

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