Spain's top-grossing comedy producer, Cesar Benitez, has launched a start-up production house, BesoBeso Producciones, with Felipe Ortiz of local distributor Tripictures taking a 50% partnership stake in the new venture.

The new company's first five films will also be backed by broadcaster TeleCinco, probably as a 50% co-producer on each project.

Benitez has signed on US-based Mexican actress Salma Hayek for BesoBeso's debut film - a comedy entitled La Gran Vida. Hayak, making her debut in Spanish cinema, will star opposite local actors Carmelo Gomez of Between Your Legs fame and Tito Valverde.The film, set to shoot in Madrid for nine weeks starting Jan 27 with Antonio Cuadri directing, has been budgeted at around PTS700m ($4.5m).

Other films on the BesoBeso slate include El Palo, set to star Carmen Maura; a Spanish-language remake of the classic Midnight; TV spin-off Fin De Curso; and a thriller called X to be directed by Luis Marias.

Benitez is reshaping his interests after a recent fall-out which saw him buy the equal shares of his former BocaBoca partners, director Manuel Gomez Pereira and scriptwriter-director Joaquin Oristrell. He now maintains full ownership of both his former production labels BocaBoca and Cristal.