Focus, Universal sign German distrib deal

Universal to distribute UFA Cinema titles

BERLIN – Focus Features International, Universal Pictures International (UPI) and German production outfit UFA Cinema have signed a wide-ranging distribution and financing deal that will see Universal take over exclusive distribution of UFA films for German-speaking Europe.

The three-year agreement will also see Focus take on international sales duties on certain UFA titles and will see Focus and UFA cooperate on the financing and production of a select number of English-language films.

UPI will handle theatrical and video distribution in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for UFA's upcoming slate, starting in 2010 with the release of four films: The Papua New Guinea set coming of age tale "Jungle Child;" German screwball comedy "Tauben auf dem Dach;" kids soccer film "The Devil Kickers" and "Hanni and Nanni," a would-be franchise based on Enid Blyton's "St. Claire's" boarding school series.

The UFA deal follows on similar international partnerships between Universal and local production labels including ones with Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro´s Cha Cha Cha shingle, Timur Bekmambetov's Moscow-based Bayalevs Production and Bill Kong's Edko Films out of Hong Kong.

"UPI Germany and Focus Features International are the best partners we could hope for," said UFA Cinema boss Thomas Peter Friedl. "Their international approach to the business, their global production partnerships and their relationships with filmmakers worldwide is unique among the U.S. studios."

Christian Grass, Co-CEO of Focus Features International and Paul Steinschulte, managing director of UPI Germany said the deal would allow both companies to benefit from the growing market for German-language films, both in Germany and internationally.

UFA Cinema, a subsidiary of TV production giant FremantleMedia ("American Idol") launched last year. Its ambitious target is to produce 6-8 feature films annually, both in German and English. Some of the higher-profile titles on UFA's development slate include adaptations of Robert Harris' alternative-history best-seller "Fatherland," Leonie Swann's sheep-centered murder mystery "Three Bags Full" and "The Weekend," based on the bestseller by "The Reader" author Bernhard Schlink.
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