Start-up company China Lion Film Distribution has entered into an exclusive partnership with US exhibitor AMC Entertainment to release Chinese movies in the North American market, starting with Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock.

China Lion is a joint venture between president and majority shareholder, China-based Jiang Yanming, and New Zealand-based CEO Milt Barlow, who also manages the distribution of Chinese movie in Australia and New Zealand for Event Cinemas.

Event has screened more than 30 Chinese films at its multiplexes under the banner “Cinema Asia” (see related story). Jiang is a producer and one of the founders of Technicolor Beijing.

Under the deal with AMC, China Lion will supply up to 15 films a year to the cinema chain in the US and Toronto and Ottawa in Canada. In most cases the films will release day-and-date with China.

The deal kicks off with Feng’s blockbuster Aftershock, which will be released in North America on October 29. AMC will play the film, which has grossed more than $100m in China, on 23 screens in key markets with a large Chinese demographic, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Toronto and Ottawa.

“While our core target audience will be the 2 million plus Chinese residents in our primary screening markets I believe these films will quickly find accord with mainstream American audiences,” said Barlow.

“Throughout the last few years in Australia and New Zealand many of these pictures have been the No. 1 or No. 2 picture in the opening week at the multiplexes where they have screened and we expect the same profile in North America.”