Lionsgate has formed a wide-ranging joint venture with Indian film giant Eros International for the distribution of its own and third-party content in the booming South Asian market.

The 50:50 joint venture will distribute Lionsgate library titles and new product across all platforms, including theatrical, home video, new media and TV.

In addition, Lionsgate will acquire North American home entertainment rights to 20 titles from Eros, including dramas such as Eklavya and Gandhi My Father, and other films with potential for mainstream release.

The two partners will also explore the production of Indian-language remakes of Lionsgate and third-party catalogue films.

The joint venture, unveiled by Lionsgate co-chairman Jon Feltheimer and Eros chairman Kishore Lulla, at Cannes yesterday, brings together two of the biggest independent players within their respective footprints - both with regional distribution networks and huge libraries.

While Lionsgate has networks across most English-speaking markets, including North America, the UK and Australia, Eros is a leading distributor of Bollywood content overseas and recently entered Indian distribution.

Feltheimer said the joint venture is in line with Lionsgate's strategy to find strong local partners in key territories with which to grow. 'It gives us the opportunity to monetise our library and formats in a growing market, as well as get into production through remakes, a significant category that has been under-exploited,' Feltheimer said.

Lulla added that the joint venture should help Eros product reach new audiences in the US, as well as produce potential crossover hits. Despite its financial muscle, the Indian industry is still searching for an equivalent of Chinese crossover film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Eros will dub Lionsgate films into several different languages for theatrical and video release, a strategy that worked for Spider-Man 3 which grossed around $15m in India last year.

Feltheimer said that distribution and remakes is 'just the beginning' for the joint venture which will eventually distribute third-party English-language content in the Indian market and launch TV channels.

The Lionsgate-Eros tie-up follows a string of deals between the US studios and Indian film companies covering distribution and the production of Hindi-language films. Separately Eros has a deal with Sony to co-invest in a slate of Hindi movies.

But it marks the first major joint venture between a US indieand Indian studio, covering production and distribution of filmed content, and syndication to TV.

By focusing on distribution, it also charts a different course to Mumbai-based Reliance Big Entertainment, which last week announced that is investing in the development of projects from US stars.

Although dominated by local product, the Indian market is becoming more attractive to overseas players due to rapid growth and the expansion of TV channels and multiplex screens.

However local films are also getting bigger. 'In next five years an Indian movie will be able to make $100m on its opening weekend,' Lulla said. Budgets and star salaries are also rising with leading Bollywood stars now asking $10m-12m per picture. But Lulla said that owning a library would help to cushion the company from growing costs.