Epsilon, the programming and acquisition joint venture between European broadcasters Kirch and Mediaset, has launched an international sales company, Beta Cinema, to focus on distribution of theatrical features.

The new operation is in addition to the group's Beta Film sales subsidiary which has traditionally concentrated on TV. It will be headed by Beta Film's former head of theatrical sales Dirk Schuerhoff and will have its first market outing at the European Film Market in Berlin next month.

According to Schuerhoff, Beta Cinema will have a two-track strategy: "On the one hand, we will have a 'New German Cinema' track where we can handle such films as our current titles [Hans-Christian Schmid's] Crazy; [Leander Haussmann's] Sun Alley and [Roland Suso Richter's] The Tunnel. On the other hand, we want to become more involved in the independent sphere on an international level. I think that this is a niche which the Kirch Group has not covered until now, but where we can be partners and help to set up the financing for projects."

Schuerhoff said that the outfit would be open to all forms of financial participation: "This could be in the form of co-financing or co-production. However, it is not that Beta Cinema would want to be the executive producer, we would leave the production in the hands of the producer."

Schuerhoff also said that the outfit, once it is up and running, could enter into output deals with production companies in Germany and elsewhere to secure a flow of product in the same way as rival German sales company Bavaria Film International.

"The point is that Beta Cinema will not be just purely a sales agency," Schuerhoff said. "We will also be prepared to invest money upfront and then help to market the films internationally".

In addition to prestigious "event" movie The Tunnel, which was screened by German private broadcaster SAT1 over two nights on January 21-22, Beta Cinema's slate includes Su Turhan's medium-length film Gone Underground, which was shot by DoP Michael Ballhaus last year using the Sony 24p HD camera; and Carlo Rola's 1920s gangster drama Sass - Die Meisterdiebe, starring Juergen Vogel (Life Is All You Get) and Ben Becker (Comedian Harmonists).