FilmFour, one of the most aggressive UK buyers at recent markets and festivals, is bolstering acquisition activities and has appointed Bobby Allen to the newly-created post of head of acquisition.

Allen, formerly managing director of Lion's Gate Films UK, is to make his festival debut for FilmFour at Sundance. His appointment comes as FilmFour looks to dramatically raise the budget levels of its acquisitions to projects and completed titles budgeted at up to $40m.

"We are looking for acquisitions to drive and build the market share which we have already established, " said UK distribution chief Peter Buckingham, to whom Allen will report. "That means looking at bigger films, although that is not to say we will not be looking at smaller projects as well."

Allen, who will focus on buying UK rights along with some titles for international, will also work with international sales head Sue Bruce Smith. FilmFour chief executive Paul Webster will have final say on acquisitions, while Allen will also be involved in arrangements such as FilmFour's recent acquisition of two packages of titles from Miramax Films.

"He's has great contacts, he's done the job and he's got great taste," Buckingham added.

Allen's responsibilities at Lions Gate, which is expected to close its London office, covered film and video acquisitions, production, development and production finance. He previously worked at PolyGram Film International as sales executive and distribution manager and as director of acquisitions at Mayfair Entertainment.

"FilmFour is one the most exciting companies in Europe and I am delighted to be part of their team," Allen commented.

FilmFour last year tripled its UK theatrical market share to 3%, the biggest rise of any local distributor. The increase was partly fuelled by an aggressive buying spree including She's All That from Miramax, which became the operation's first number one; The Limey, which took £400,000; The Straight Story, which is expected to bring in £550,000; and Buena Vista Social Club, the UK's highest grossing documentary on £765,00 so far. The distribution operation scored its biggest success ever with home-grown production East Is East, which has grossed £8.4m to date.

FilmFour has also appointed Caroline Hewitt, whose credits include executive producing The Young Poisoner's Handbook and producing The Nine Lives Of Thomas Katz, as head of physical production. She replaces Joanna Beresford, who has moved to UK TV production company TalkBack as head of production.

Production finance executive Tracey Josephs will report to Hewitt and together they will supervise the entire production process of each FilmFour production.

"We are absolutely thrilled that Caroline has joined us from the production sector," commented Webster. "She brings with her an in depth experience equal to anyone in the country. We are extremely lucky to have her."

Hewitt has also acted as associate producer on Rolf de Heer's The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, Jon Amiel's Queen Of Hearts and Pat O'Connor's Fools Of Fortune, plus co-producer on Les Miserables.