Two is better than one for Senator Ent.

Marco Weber buying out shares of the U.S. portion

Senator Entertainment, the multinational production and distribution company, is splitting in two in a bid to gain a bigger foothold in Hollywood.

Marco Weber, the Los Angeles-based COO of the German-U.S. outfit, is buying out shares of the American portion of the entity and will run a separate Hollywood-based company he says will feature beefed-up U.S.-based production and distribution.

The move marks the next phase of an experiment in building a distribution slate from the remnants of Senator Films.

Weber and CEO Helge Sasse headed a consortium of investors that three years ago bought out the financially struggling German firm from Deutsche Bank. The company quickly financed and went into production on several films, including an adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' 1980s-set L.A. story "The Informers," the Samuel Jackson government action film "Unthinkable" and the Adrien Brody sci-fi tale "Splice."

But the distribution business can be costly and difficult to navigate, particularly in the U.S. And though it's still early, Senator had made few inroads so far in the U.S. theatrical market.

Senator does hold domestic distribution rights to movies it has produced, including "Informers" and "Splice," which could be released as early as next year. It also has picked up domestic rights to "Public Enemy," the $80 million biopic of French criminal mastermind Jacques Mesrine, and "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane," Jonathan Levine's teen horror tale that the Weinstein Co. sold off after making a much-heralded buy two years ago in Toronto.

Although plans still are coming together, Weber's new U.S.-centric company is planning to bolster its distribution arm in a way that could help the firm release those titles wide stateside instead of selling them to or partnering with outside distribs.

Unclear in Senator's new U.S. guise is the status of "Birds in Fall," a Julia Roberts-produced drama about a plane crash that Senator had been developing under its current incarnation.

Sasse will take control of the German stand-alone branch, which will be named Senator Entertainment AG. Weber will remain a major shareholder of that outfit through his and Sasse's holding company HSW, and the duo will partner on one-off projects.

Steven Zeitchik reported from New York; Scott Roxborough reported from Cologne, Germany.
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