Plenty of enterprising young distribution companies, including Vertigo, Dogwoof, Soda, Swipe and Revolver, have sprung up in the UK, ready to give theatrical releases to the best 'auteur' films and the most challenging documentaries.

Bigger companies such as Lionsgate UK (which enjoyed enormous success with The Lives Of Others and recently acquired Francois Ozon's Angel), Momentum Films and the StudioCanal-backed Optimum Releasing are also supporting what might be described as auteur cinema.

The UK Film Council has set up a p&a fund to help distributors put 'specialist' movies into cinemas. There are great hopes now for broadening UK cinema-goers' fare through digital distribution. The box-office successes of titles such as Pan's Labyrinth and Amores Perros suggests UK audiences are more adventurous than they are given credit for. What is more, there is evidence the UK's arthouse distributors are looking both to consolidate and to diversify.

Last year, Curzon Artificial Eye was formed after the merger of veteran UK arthouse distributor Artificial Eye Film Company with Curzon Cinemas. The company will handle auteur films, but is also aiming to acquire some more mainstream English-language titles. It is also looking at pay-per-view and VoD releases of its titles.

In late October, another veteran UK distributor, Tartan Films, announced it was restructuring. Meanwhile, independent distributor Soda is to become part of a new UK micro-studio, working with production outfit Ipso Facto and sales company Moviehouse Entertainment on up to four low-budget releases each year. As such initiatives attest, the old model of the UK arthouse distributor releasing auteur films they acquired at big festivals no longer applies. Nowadays, the distributors have to do far more.

Geoffrey Macnab