ElieSamaha's Franchise Pictures is in aggressive form at the American Film Marketthis year, having already closed an eight-picture deal with Artport in Japan thatSamaha says is worth in excess of $9m.

Amongthe titles to which Artport picked up rights are David Mamet's new picture Spartan, which stars Val Kilmerand William H Macy, Out Of Reach starring Steven Seagal and new action vehiclesfor Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Thedeal was closed between Franchise's president of international distributionMimi Steinbauer and Artport chief Junichi Matsushita.

Newlyfinanced Franchise has some of the market's most eagerly awaited filmsincluding Paul Verhoeven's next film Void Moon that is based on thebest-seller by Michael Connolly and Kevin Reynolds' Tristan And Isolde, produced by RidleyScott and starring James Franco.

Southern California construction magnate Ronald Tutor andco-investor David Bergstein recently acquired 49% of Franchise, which has adistribution deal with Warner Bros whereby Warner handles domestic rights onall Franchise pictures budgeted at more than $20m.

This year the arrangement will yield Rob Reiner's AlexAnd Emma aka Loosely Based On ATrue Story with Kate Hudson and LukeWilson, the sequel The Whole Ten Yards with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry reprising their original roles,and Andrew Fleming's The Wedding Party starring Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks among others.

The companyhas also signed a three-picture deal with Norris Film Works, the productioncompany run by Chuck Norris' son Mike Norris, kickboxing off with the completedeffects-heavy action picture Bells Of Innocence starring Chuck Norris as an angeloverseeing a chess game between good and evil.