Senator aims for revival with Deutschfilm

Joint venture to develop, produce and acquire German titles

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BERLIN -- Anatol Nitschke and Christoph Muller, the head of distribution and production respectively at Germany's Senator Film, have left the company -- sort of.

Senator announced Thursday it has set up a new production joint venture, Deutschfilm, with Nitschke and Muller which will develop, produce and acquire German-language titles for Senator.

Senator will control 50% of Deutschfilm. Nitschke and Muller hold the remaining 50%. Senator CEO Helge Sasse and Peter Heinzemann will take over the running of Senator's distribution arm Senator Film Verleih.

The new outfit will take over several of Senator's in-development projects, including the biopic "Goethe!," described as a "Shakespeare in Love" -- style look at the legendary German poet from up-and-coming director Phillipp Stolzl ("North Face") and the comedy "Was weg ist, ist weg" (What's gone is gone), the directorial debut of screenwriter Christian Lerch, a German Film Prize winner for his script to sleeper hit "Grave Decisions" (2006).

The move is part of Senator's overall restructuring strategy aimed both at slimming the company's operating costs and shifting its focus more to lower-risk German-language productions.

Senator will still release high-profile international productions. The company is pulling out all the stops for its promotion of "The Reader," which bows in an out-of-competition slot at the Berlinale and goes wide in Germany on Feb. 26.