Bob Aaaronson, the new acquisition chief for CanWest Films, has made his first purchase for the fledgling US distribution company, picking up North American rights to Ben Hopkins' debut feature Simon Magus.

Aaronson, who was previously an acquisitions executive for both New Line/Fine Line and 20th Century Fox before becoming an independent producer, has been named vice-president of acquistions and co-productions for CanWest Films.

In addition to finding films for domestic distribution, Aaronson will also help in identifying projects that can be sold worldwide through Seven Arts International, another company that falls under Jay Firestone's CanWest Entertainment as a wholly owned subsidiary.

"This is a dream job" said Aaronson. "Jay's given me the opportunity to help mould a division of a young and and aggressive company with tremendous resources behind it. We can consider projects at any stage, at any level and for any territorial configuration."

Simon Magus, which has been seen at a number of international festivals including Berlin, Edinburgh and this year's Sundance (where this latest cut was first shown), was acquired from United Artist Films and producer Robert Jones. A haunting drama set in a rural central Europe during the 19th Century, the film stars Noah Taylor, Embeth Davidtz, Rutger Hauer, Ian Holm and Stuart Townsend.

In the US, Simon Magus will be released by CanWest through IDP Distribution, the new distribution partnership modeled after international releasing partnership United International Pictures (UIP). A Canadian distribution for Simon Magus is currently being arranged, said Aaronson.

Besides handling CanWest releases, IDP will also be putting out films acquired by both Samuel Goldwyn Films and Stratosphere Entertainment. Heading up distribution and marketing for IDP is the recently appointed chief operating officer Michael Silberman; his upcoming release slate also includes Liv Ullman's competition entry Faithless.