Canal Plus is taking a controlling stake in Germany's Tobis in order to create the German portion of its proposed pan-European studio; Le Studio Canal Plus Deutschland.

The French pay-TV giant is already a 20% shareholder in German distributor Tobis but will increase its holding to around 66%. Tobis's existing shareholders currently include Tobis president Kilian Rebentrost with 44%, founder/producer Horst Wendlandt with 16% and France's Pathe with 20%.

The new outfit brings Canal Plus one step closer to its stated aim of building a studio operation in six European countries - France, Germany, Spain, Benelux, UK and Italy.

Canal Plus is also partnering with Belgium-based distributor Cinelibre/Cineart to launch Le Studio Canal Benelux - likely to be headed up by Cinelibre/Cineart chief Eliane Dubois along with leading Dutch player San Fu Maltha. Le Studio Canal Espana is currently being set up with Canal Plus' regular Spanish broadcasting and distribution partner Sogepaq.

The remaining pieces of the jigsaw are Le Studio Canal UK - where the French giant is talking to four potential partners - and Le Studio Canal Italia.

Each local outfit will handle TV and film production and co-production, theatrical distribution and home video and television sales. Canal Plus recently completed the French portion of the structure with the acquisition of a controlling stake in Jean Labadie's start-up venture Bac Distribution.

Canal Plus declined to comment on the creation of Berlin-based Le Studio Canal Deutschland although the outfit is likely to be co-chaired by Tobis president Kilian Rebentrost and former Universal Pictures Germany chief Haig Balian. Albert Wiederspiel - a former marketing head at Twentieth Century Fox who has been running Universal Pictures Germany since Balian's departure - is likely to handle theatrical distribution for the new outfit.

The start-up is due to launch in March, with local acquisition, Edward Berger's Frau 2 Und Happy End (pictured), as its first release.

In France, a holding company, Le Studio Canal, or Studio Canal, is to be created to oversee the entire operation. Canal Plus currently has a division known as the "subsidiary division" headed by Vincent Grimond which groups all of the company's TV and film production and film rights holding and trading activities.