Philippe Martinez' BauerMartinez Studios has launched a US distribution venture with a high profileslate that boasts the $40m John McTiernan actioner Riders Of The Storm, £30m thriller The Flock from Andy Lau, as well as Bauer Martinez'co-production Modigliani andfirst acquisition The Groomsmenfrom Ed Burn's Black and Tan Productions.

Backed by an exclusive $100mfunding deal with UK-based Templar Film Investment Fund for the next threeyears, the Los Angeles-based Bauer Martinez Distribution (BMD) will release 12pictures each year.

Other titles scheduled forrelease include the comedy Irish Jam starring Eddie Griffin, which will open in North America domesticallyin November, and Land Of The Blindstarring Ralph Fiennes and Donald Sutherland, opening in early 2006. Both filmsare presently in post-production.

Martinez aims to bulk up hisslate with seven acquisitions at Cannes and has named attorney Martin Barab aspresident of the new venture, with Jonathan Weisgal, formerly with JerseyFilms, coming in as head of development.

Mansour Mostaedi, formerlywith First Look Media, has been named chief financial officer and BMD hasalready set up an initial distribution staff of 25 based in new offices onSunset Boulevard.

BMD is currently innegotiations to finalise a home video/DVD output deal with a major studio.

Riders Of The Storm and The Flock are part of a co-production and distribution arrangement with EliSamaha and Robert Levy's Gibraltar Films and both are set to go into productionin October. Gibraltar will handle foreign distribution with BMD releasing inthe US.

Bauer Martinez co-financedcomedy The Groomsmen, written anddirected by Edward Burns and starring Burns, John Leguizamo and BrittanyMurphy, which is scheduled to complete principal photography in New York nextweek.

Modigliani, a biopic of the celebrated artist directed by andstarring Andy Garcia, will open on nine screens in the LA market this weekendbefore expanding into the top ten US markets.

"This is a major move for us and we want to do it big,"Martinez said in a statement. "We feel there's a need in the market and we wantto release five major films per year with 1,500 to 2,500 prints, plus anotherseven smaller films.

All films from the company'sproduction outfit, Lucky 7 Productions, will also be released in the US by BMD.

Martinez is also bulking upsales arm Bauer Martinez International headed by president Karinne Behr, withthe hiring of executives Todd Olsson, J D Beaufils and Liron Artzi.