Canada'sAlliance Atlantis Communications has agreed to buy Spanish distributor AurumProducciones for about $54m.

Thedeal will extend the Canadian firm's reach in Europe, where it already alreadyowns Momentum Pictures in the UK.

"Thisacquisition is part of our clearly articulated strategy to expand intocontinental Europe," said Patrice Theroux, president and chief operatingofficer. "We believe this move in continental Europe provides us with asolid foundation for further strong growth, including to other potential newmarkets such as France and Germany."

Establishedin 1995, Aurum is the largest independent film distributor in Spain with a 6.5%market share of theatrical box office receipts in 2003 thanks to hits such as TheLord Of The Rings trilogy and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Aurum iscurrently distributing Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ. Aurum hadrevenues last year of about $86.2m and net income of about $5.8m.

"Theacquisition of Aurum will enable the Partnership to acquire distribution rightsfor films in three international markets - Canada, the U.K. and nowSpain," said Xavier Marchand, managing director, Momentum Pictures, whowill oversee Aurum's operations. "We also intend to continue Aurum's successfulstrategy of supporting exciting and innovative Spanish films for distributionin Spain and, where appropriate, Canada and the U.K."

Theacquisition will be made by Motion Picture Distribution LP, which is 51 percentowned by Alliance and 49 percent held by the Movie Distribution Income Fund.Alliance spun out its film distribution operations as an income trust lastyear.

TheToronto-based firm said the purchase price will be funded through increasedborrowing under the partnership's credit facility and cash on hand.