Beacon Communicationsfounder and producer Armyan Bernstein has signed a five-year overall deal withWalt Disney Studios. Along with partner Charlie Lyons and private investors,Bernstein has capitalised the new venture, Beacon Pictures, and plans to createand distribute titles under the Beacon label. Lyons, the founder and formerchairman of sport and leisure outfit Ascent Entertainment, has been named chiefexecutive officer of the new company. The deal was structured by Alan Levine oflaw firm Ziffren Brittenham.

Announcing the deal today(Dec 12), Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said in a statement: "Armyand Charlie are a rare blend of talents that have proven themselves on both thecreative and business sides of making movies and operating entertainmentassets."

Bernstein said in statementthat Disney was "the perfect studio at the perfect time for us". Hecontinued: "We've been partners on films in the past, from TheHurricane to Air Force One, so we know how to work together."

Through Beacon, Bernstein,who was ShoWest 2000 Producer of the Year, generated more than $1bn in ticketsales with titles like Air Force One, Bring It On, Spy Game and Thirteen Days. Lyons added that Beacon Pictures would be lookingto acquire other entertainment assets in order to become a mid-sizedentertainment company with the ability to develop, produce and distribute allforms of content.

Bernstein's formerpartners at Beacon Marc Abraham and Thomas Bliss left Beacon earlier this yearto set up a new venture Strike Entertainment which has a four-year, first-lookdeal at Universal Pictures.