LA-based independent home video production and distribution outfit The Asylum has secured private funding to produce 20 films over the next 18 months, with the first title set to begin principal photography in January 2004 for a summer US release.

The line-up will comprise mostly horror, sci-fi and thriller titles budgeted up to $2.5m for US and worldwide distribution, supplementing the company's acquisitions.

Pre-production titles include the true-crime title McVeigh, about the notorious Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, Mummy Chick, about a reanimated ancient Egyptian queen that attempts to take over the world, and Croak, a tale of small town mutants.

The Asylum's international sales division will handle worldwide distribution with most of the slate going through the company's new US-based video label, The Asylum Home Entertainment.

Former Village Roadshow Pictures executives Sherri Strain and David Rimawi and award-winning film-maker David Michael Latt established The Asylum in 1998.

The trio were previously partners in video label First Rites, through which they released more than 100 titles by debut directors..

The Asylum recently completed production on Stuart Gordon's thriller King Of The Ants and is in discussions to sell to an unspecified buyer.

'It's a very exciting time,' Strain said. 'You are presented with an opportunity and it's sink or swim and we're planning to swim.'