Kirch and Mediaset's joint venture for big-budget productions, Epsilon Motion Pictures (Emotion), has selected the first three projects to kick off its distribution pact with Franchise Pictures: Michael Caton-Jones' City By The Sea, Antonio Banderas-starrer Ecks vs. Sever and David Goyer's directorial debut Zigzag.

Emotion signed a deal in October to take Continental European distribution rights to certain Franchise titles. Franchise's regular European distribution partner, Intertainment, is understood to have passed on the three pictures.

City By The Sea began shooting in New York in mid-November and stars Robert de Niro and Frances McDormand. Zigzag stars Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo and Natasha Leone.

Kirch Media's programming chief Jan Mojto said: "The cooperation with Franchise Pictures is another important step on the way to expanding our links with American production companies and extending our repertoire of high-quality feature films".

Franchise chairman Elie Samaha said: "We are very excited to be partnered in a relationship with such a prestigious group as Epsilon and to be in direct business with the major end users in European territories."

Emotion also has distribution deals with the US' New Regency Productions, Spyglass Entertainment, Wildwood Enterprises and Hyde Park Entertainment.