Elie Samaha's FranchisePictures has gone into business with Oscar-nominated superstar CatherineZeta-Jones, agreeing to fully finance her first film as a producer, the rugbycomedy Coming Out in which shewill play a Welsh hairdresser.

Alan Cumming is negotiatingto star with Zeta-Jones in the film which was written by Sara Sugarman (VeryAnnie Mary, Mad Cows) and KevinAllen (Twin Town) and will beshot in the UK and Wales. Cumming will play a flamboyantly gay West Endperformer who inherits a Welsh rugby team on his father's death and has tobattle local prejudice and debt to rebuild the team and win the rugbychampionship. Zeta-Jones will play an old friend of his for whom he helpsrekindle a relationship with his brother.

The film will be produced byZeta-Jones and her brother David Jones and joins a slate at Franchise whichincludes new films from Paul Verhoeven, David Mamet and Kevin Reynolds. Thecompany also produced and financed The Wedding Party, the next film to star Michael Douglas, Zeta-Jones' husband,which will open in the US through Warner Bros later this year.

Meanwhile last week,Franchise closed its second major Japanese deal of the market, selling sixtitles to Gaga Communications in a deal Samaha said was worth more than $28m.Franchise international distribution chief Mimi Steinbauer closed the deal withNichiho Marumo, CEO of Gaga, and Ken Umehara, vice president, acquisition andmarketing, for the films - which included upcoming actioner Airtight, RobReiner's Alex And Emma, comedysequel The Whole Ten Yards, TheWedding Party, Ballistic: Ecks VsSever and Steven Seagal-starrer OutOf Reach. The previous day Franchisehad sold six titles to Japan's Artport including Mamet's Spartan.

In a busy market for Samaha'scompany, Italy's CDI also closed on six pictures from Franchise including AlexAnd Emma, The Whole Ten Yards and Spartan. Samaha said that the Italian deal was worth between $15m and $16m.