Sales and distribution outfit Lightning Entertainment has launched an expansion of operations via a $20 million fund for acquisitions and co-financing in the independent film arena.

New fund is aimed at giving Lightning the opportunity to acquire commercial films for international distribution, as well as provide gap financing and completion monies for projects in any stage of production.

“Our company can now compete for a broad range of completed films while also providing mezzanine level and finishing funds for projects still in production,” said prexy Richard Goldberg.

Company aims to acquire and introduce to the worldwide market as many as a dozen films annually.

“Last year, we secured gap funding from a third party for the producers of ‘Hey! Hey! It’s Esther Blueburger,’ starring Toni Collette and Keisha Castle-Hughes,” he added. “Today we would put up that money ourselves.”

Lightning has already secured international rights to the psychological crime thriller “Anamorph,” starring Willem Dafoe and Scott Speedman, and “The Rebel,” the largest production ever in Vietnam and the second highest grossing film in Vietnamese box office history. It also acquired international rights to the drama “Bonneville,” starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates and Joan Allen.

Lightning’s sales slate at AFM will include Australian titles “Hey! Hey! Its Esther Blueburger” and “Kenny”; teen comedy “Cougar Club”; sci-fier “The Dark Hour”; and horror/thriller “Unrest.”