Prolific UK production house Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) is entering into the distribution business with a new joint venture with London-based distributor Maiden Voyage Pictures.

The companies will back the distribution business 50/50, and will release F&ME co-productions as well as third-party acquisitions, including those with F&ME's network of usual co-producers across Europe. The company plans to acquire all UK rights.

The six-to-eight annual theatrical releases, usually on 5-25 prints in the UK and Ireland, will start this June with the re-release of Milcho Manchevski's 1994 Before The Rain, followed by Klaus Haro's Finnish Oscar submission Mother Of Mine, Jannick Johansen's thriller Murk and Erwin Wagenhofer's documentary We Feed The World. Other releases to follow will include F.C.Venus, Eleven Men Out and Border Post.

The companies will also run a co-branded DVD arm that will release about 15 titles per year, again including some third-party projects. The DVD arm is likely to kick-off with a May release of Gunter Grass adaptation Call Of The Toad. VOD and digital download options are being discussed.

'There are so few UK distributors who are putting out an eclectic slate of world cinema titles,' said F&ME's Mike Downey. The move will also let F&ME exploit the value of its library of about 25 productions. 'In terms of our growth, it's a step towards us setting up a sales arm,' Downey added.

The deal is non-exclusive so that Maiden Voyage can continue to distribute its own acquisitions and F&ME can go to other distributors with larger titles like their $19.5m (Euros 15m) historical epic Bathory. 'We will maintain relationships with more mainstream UK distributors.'

Maiden Voyage, founded in 2002, has previously worked on films including Rabbit Fever and BAFTA nominated Rollin' With The Nines. 'They really understand how to get world cinema to a young, smart market,' Downey said of his new partners.

Added Maiden Voyage principal Bjorn Ricketts: 'In joining forces with Mike and Sam [Taylor] at F&ME we are acquiring a catalogue of some of the best independent European movies made in the last 18 months - and in the case of Before The Rain in the last 10 years. It also places us in the front row to acquire further in house and co-productions generated by the F&ME group.'