Pathe and Warner Bros. strike alliance

Duo will work in U.K. to find co-productions

LONDON -- French-owned Pathe and Warner Bros. have struck a wide-ranging production and distribution alliance between their U.K. and Ireland operations.

The companies said Thursday that the pact between Warner Bros. Entertainment U.K. and Pathe's U.K. operations will see the two work together to "identify co-production opportunities."

The units have collaborated for several months on a big-budget, live-action movie based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" stories, and footage from a test shoot, complete with live panthers, is in postproduction.

As part of the deal, Pathe U.K. will focus increasingly on the development and production of its own titles rather than the acquisition of third-party films. The intent is to produce a slate of four to five English-language films a year, to be supplemented by productions from Pathe France.

Pathe's films will be distributed in the U.K. and Ireland by WBEUK, beginning in May with the release of Stephen Frears' "Cheri," starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend and Kathy Bates.

Pathe U.K. will continue to devise marketing campaigns for its films, with WBEU.K. taking on the titles across all media except local video rights, which will continue to be handled for Pathe by 20th Century Pathe.

The alliance was announced by Pathe executive vp Francois Ivernel, Pathe U.K. managing director Cameron McCracken and WBEU.K. president and managing director Josh Berger.

Ivernel and McCracken said forming an alliance with a U.S. studio represents "rational response" to a "rapidly evolving digital world."

"Our relationship with Fox in terms of video distribution has always worked extremely well, so a broader alliance with a U.S. studio feels entirely natural," the duo said.

Added Berger: "This exciting alliance will help us both to increase our investment in the production and acquisition of films in the U.K. and Ireland and to use our relationships and expertise across traditional and new-media channels to bring Pathe's great films to ever more film fans."

The alliance will not extend to the activities of Pathe France or Pathe U.K.'s role as international sales agent.