Dark Horse Entertainment has signed a three-year production and distribution deal with Universal Pictures that, for the first time, establishes a studio base for all Dark Horse creative properties going forward.

Dark Horse, which is the entertainment arm of Dark Horse Comics, has been working with Universal on Hellboy II: The Golden Army directed by Guillermo Del Toro which is based on Mike Mignola's Dark Horse character. It is a Universal summer tentpole, scheduled for a July 11, 2008, release in North America.

Under the terms of the deal, Universal will have creative access to Dark Horse characters and properties as well as any material which Dark Horse may acquire on its own and want to develop as a film. Dark Horse will also have the opportunity to distribute movies through Universal.

'Dark Horse is one of the most creative and innovative brands in the entertainment industry, as well as an incredibly supportive home for some of the most exciting storytellers working today,' said Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger and co-chairman David Linde in a joint statement. 'Their unique connection to youth culture is proven, and we are thrilled to be part of their expanding film production work.'

'We've worked with many studios and have had several great experiences, but we are particularly happy to be joining forces with Universal Pictures in this deal,' added Mike Richardson who is president of Dark Horse.

'We feel a real connection with their vision and the energy and creativity they bring to developing our properties. We are also excited by the option that we'll have to independently produce our own material and distribute it through Universal; their flexibility in this collaboration is what we were looking for, and we're glad we found it.'

Dark Horse Entertainment is represented by Endeavor and The Gotham Group. Among the films which have emerged from Dark Horse properties are The Mask, 30 Days Of Night, Mystery Men, Timecop and Barb Wire.