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Things are heating up nicely in Blighty, as multinational indies square up against the acquisitive U.S. majors for a share of the biggest B.O. and the strongest DVD business in Europe. Entertainment Film Distributors, buttressed by its New Line deal, remains No. 1. But the sale of Momentum’s parent Alliance to Goldman Sachs, last year’s acquisition of Optimum by StudioCanal and the arrival of Contender Entertainment as an aggressive buyer following its takeover by Canadian-based Entertainment One have all upped the ante for midmarket rivals such as Pathe and Lionsgate. Competition at the arthouse end is equally intense, with a proliferation of minnow distribs, the sale of Artificial Eye and continuing speculation over the future ownership of Tartan and Metrodome.

Entertainment Film Distributors
Toppers:
Nigel and Trevor Green
B.O.: $102 million (market share 7.2%)
Top pic: “Hairspray” ($25.2 million)
In brief: Has output deal with New Line; “Run, Fat Boy, Run,” the debut from Material Entertainment, its new U.K. production joint venture with New Line, turned out to be the surprise hit of the year. It was No. 1 for four successive weekends in September.

Momentum Pictures
Topper: Xavier Marchand, president, international at parent Alliance Films
B.O.: $56 million (3.9%)
Top pic: “Miss Potter” ($14 million)
In brief: Topper Marchand was suspended on full pay for most of the year while the former management of Canadian parent negotiated the group’s sale to Goldman Sachs. Marchand returned as soon as the new owners got their hands on the company in August.

Icon Film Distribution
Topper: Martin Bigham, CEO; Hugo Grumbar, president of distributionB.O.: $28.7 million (2%)
Top pic: “Bridge to Terabithia” ($9.6 million)
In brief: Moved office to distant London suburb of North Finchley, fired or lost all the staff anyone in the industry recognized, but still managed to pull off a decent year, with “Terabithia,” “Apocalypto” and “La Vie en rose,” proving there’s more to distribution than swanking around Soho. Now rebuilding profile with the appointment of Grumbar and Phil Rymer to run biz affairs.

Lionsgate UK
Topper: Zygi Kamasa, CEO
B.O.: $18.7 million (1.4%)
Top pic: “Employee of the Month” ($7.3 million)
In brief: Lionsgate’s British outlet has had a quiet year, with the $5.4 million for German pic “The Lives of Others” a standout on its theatrical slate. Cautious acquisition strategy is more tailored to finding value others have missed than aggressive bidding on the biggest titles.

Pathe UKTopper: Cameron McCracken, managing director
B.O.: $16.2 million (1.1%)
Top pic: “Wedding Daze” ($4.4 million)
In brief: The U.K. arm of the Gallic major has had a slow year, with Nick Love’s “Outlaw” its only notable release. Former topper Francois Ivernel was promoted to oversee the U.K. and French operations, and bring them closer together.

Optimum Releasing
Topper: Will Clarke, CEO; Danny Perkins, managing director
B.O.: $10.2 million (0.7%)
Top pic: “This Is England” ($3.1 million)
In brief: Sold last year by the canny Clarke to French major StudioCanal, Optimum’s business is driven by a powerful DVD engine, much enhanced by the addition of StudioCanal’s vast library. Historically a niche player, company has stepped up a league in acquisitions, but its big buys, such as “In the Valley of Elah,” will only reach its release slate in 2008. Triumph of 2007 was the boffo run of “This Is England.”

Note: 2007 B.O. through Sept. 30