Alliance, BBC team

Co-prod'n, lotto bid and distrib arm planned

MONTREAL – Alliance Communications has ambitious plans to grab a slice of the booming film action in the U.K. The Canadian company’s three-pronged agenda includes a co-production deal with BBC Films, a bid for one of the British film production franchises funded by the national lottery and the creation of a domestic U.K. theatrical distrib arm.

Alliance Pictures, the company’s feature-film production division, will officially announce todaythat it has inked a two-year deal with BBC Films to co-produce and develop feature projects using Canadian and British talent. The Alliance-BBC partnership will likely develop five pics during the first year of the agreement, with most falling in the $4 million to $5 million budget range. The deal is renewable after two years.

Beeb projects rolling

Alliance is already in negotiations with the BBC regarding a couple of films, including “White Clouds” and a pic based on Brian Moore’s novel “The Statement,” but these two pro-jects pre-date the new co-production deal. Alliance made the pact with the BBC in order to tap into the rich source of actors, scripters and directors in the U.K., said Alliance Pictures president Andras Hamori.

“The London talent pool is enormous,” said Hamori. “There are great directors, tremendous actors, and it really complements our Canadian talent. We’ll be using young film- making talent from both countries. Hopefully we’ll discover the next Danny Boyle.”

The pics produced by the Alliance-BBC tandem will be a mixed menu of majority-British, majority-Canadian, and equal British-Canadian co-productions. Alliance has had numerous projects with British connections over the years, notably the pic “Crash,” which originated in the U.K. Alliance Releasing, the company’s Canadian domestic distribution operation, has generated strong B.O. results in the past with Brit fare, including numerous BBC Films titles.

Hamori confirmed that George Faber, who recently left his position as head of single drama at the BBC, will head a consortium bid for a lottery franchise that will be backed by Alliance. The Alliance-supported franchise would likely churn out two or three $4 million pics, three $10 million films, and one $15 million project annually over the six-year life-span of the public-funding arrangement.

“The franchise, if we’re successful, will give us an opportunity to stand behind British movies,” said Hamori. “It’s a fresh territory for us and we have fresh money for them.”

Distrib plan

Alliance will also set up a domestic U.K. distributor over the next nine months, which will handle indie product in the territory. Alliance exec VP George Burger said it was unlikely the U.K. distrib would have long-term output deals in place at the outset, in contrast to Alliance Releasing in Canada, which makes big bucks via deals with Miramax and New Line. The lack of output arrangements would force the British operation to start off on a more modest footing than its Canadian counterpart, said Burger.

Burger wouldn’t reveal whether Alliance was planning to create the distrib from scratch or if it would be taking over an existing indie distrib in London.

“It’s basically a desire to build our releasing business,” said Burger. “It’s been highly successful in Canada. So we have to look to other opportunities for growth and it’s a natural fit.”

The move will give Alliance Independent Films, the company’s international distrib, increased buying power when purchasing indie pics since it can now offer automatic access to both the Canadian and British markets.

Alliance Independent Films has bought world rights to films like “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” “The Daytrippers” and “Denise Calls Up” over the past two years, and future acquisitions like those will now come out under the Alliance banner in the U.K., Burger said.

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