Senator International president Joe Drake announced yesterday (Jan13) that the company's senior management has bought out Senator's US operationsfrom parent Senator Entertainment and lender Deutsche Bank and named the newcompany Mandate Pictures.

Drake, head of production Nathan Kahane and chief financialofficer Brian Goldsmith are the principal owners of the company, with securefinancial backing from a New York-based hedge fund with $2bn under management.

The current team, infrastructure and slate remain intact asMandate looks to develop a bigger slate and move more projects into productionwith the major studios.

Mandate currently has an "aggressive" slate of titles underway andDrake said more would be announced in the next two months or so.

The move ends months of speculation. "We have built a vibrantcompany over the last three years providing the industry with much neededcommercial pictures," Drake said in a statement.

"Our success speaks volumes about the quality of people that makeup this company, as well as the business and creative community that havesupported our vision.

"With the close of this transaction, we shed the financialconstraints that were holding us back and we are finally in a position torealise the full potential of this organisation."

"Even with improved financing, our mission hasn't changed," Kahaneadded. "We will always be a company that puts material first while givingtalented filmmakers an alternative to traditional studio development andproduction."

The transaction was negotiated for management by Goldsmith alongwith Stephen Scharf and Robert Haymer of O'Melveny & Myers.

The slate includes The Grudge 2 from Ghost House Pictures, the genreproduction label formed by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Mandate, which has justsigned Takashi Shimizu to direct following the $140m worldwide success of lastyear's original; and Marc Forster's comedy Stranger than Fiction, which stars Will Ferrell and isscheduled to start production in April.

Othertitles include Ghost House Pictures' horror titles Dibbuk Box and Scarecrow, a remake of Raimi's The Evil Dead, and the vampire thriller 30 Days Of Night in partnership with Columbia Pictures.

Mandate is actively producing a slate with outside partnersincluding the horror title Strangers with Roy Lee and Doug Davison's Vertigo Entertainment forUniversal.

Onthe sales front Mandate scored hit openings last weekend in the US and UK with WhiteNoise, on which it has aco-financing and international sales agreement with Gold Circle Films. Othertitles from that deal include the upcoming comedies The Wedding Date and The Long Weekend.

Upcomingreleases include Boogeyman, Ghost House Pictures' first original release, through ScreenGems on Feb 4.