EXCLUSIVE: Soda brand continues to exist as the company expands to include Canadian distribution, starting with The Riot Club.

Canadian production company Thunderbird has acquired UK indie distributor Soda Pictures in a deal that will see Soda grow its UK operations and slate as well as launching as a distributor in Canada.

The companies launch the new venture with a Canadian deal for Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, which premieres tomorrow night in Toronto. The Riot Club deal was negotiated between HanWay’s Thorsten Schumacher and Soda’s Eve Gabereau.

Soda will continue to operate under its own brand, as part of the Thunderbird group of companies. Soda principals Eve Gabereau and Edward Fletcher, who founded the company in 2002, will continue to lead the outfit.

The alliance will see Soda concentrating on high-end British films for its Canadian slate. The UK slate will grow in “scale and scope” thanks to the new investment.

Tim Gamble, CEO of Thunderbird, said “We are thrilled to be expanding into the theatrical space with Eve, Edward and the Soda team, they are a great fit for us.”

“Soda has exceptional relationships with filmmakers and an infrastructure in place that will help us expand our reach, library and expertise. By leveraging this, we think it’s a smart way to enter the Canadian distribution market,” added Thunderbird executive chairman Ivan Fecan.

Gabereau said: “Launching with The Riot Club says it all. It’s fun, it’s raucous, it’s disturbing, it’s poignant, it’s great, great filmmaking.”

The deal lets Thunderbird build on its production background by creating an inroads into distribution in both the UK and Canada; and Soda, which has been increasing its production activities, now gets the strength of two markets.

Deals will be done on a film-by-film basis, sometimes for single territory but sometimes acquired jointly for the UK and Canada.

The backing will allow Soda’s UK team to grow, as well as for the company to work on some bigger films. Gabereau, Canada-born but living in the UK for 16 years, reassures that the company will also continue to work on the niche and foreign-language titles it has been known for. “We’re still very strongly aligned with those films,” she added.

“In a way it’s business as usual, but we also now have a partner company that can fund growth and expansion, while letting us run autonomously,” Gabereau said.

Privately owned Thunderbird, headquartered in Vancouver with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, includes Thunderbird Films, Reunion Pictures and Sea to Sky Studios (a joint venture with Lionsgate). Frank Giustra, founder of Lionsgate, is the largest investor in the company.

Thunderbird’s productions include TV shows Package Deal, Some Assembly Required, Zigby and Olympus; the company’s film projects include Baby Sellers starring Kirstie Alley, and the forthcoming Blade Runner relaunch.