Together with the RTL Group, FremantleMedia has launched a new producer-distributor Ufa Cinema through its German subsidiary UFA to deliver feature films for the local market and possibly be the first step towards the creation of a European major studio.

The new initiative already has 40 projects in the pipeline that will result in an annual slate of eight films per year from 2010 with its first projects being made known early next year.

Plans are also afoot to eventually establish an in-house theatrical distribution infrastructure, and UFA head of press Kristian Mueller told that the first four titles will be released during 2009.

Ufa Cinema, based in Potsdam and Munich, will be managed by UFA CEO Wolf Bauer, Nico Hofmann, CEO of UFA production subsidiary Teamworx, and Teamworx managing director Juergen Schuster.

They will be joined from April 1, 2008 by ex-Constantin Film executive Thomas Peter Friedl who will be responsible for marketing and distribution as well as production of the new company's films.

Commenting on the creation of the new German player, Wolf Bauer said that 'a huge future potential' had been identified 'in the rapidly changing German feature film market for a commercially oriented high quality producer. The new feature film funding programme of State Minister for Culture Neumann, the improved export opportunities for German productions, and the chances of digital distribution have considerably improved the economic conditions for the production and exploitation of feature films. If we are as successful with Ufa Cinema as we imagine, we will work together with FremantleMedia on the establishment of further film production companies in other European markets. The vision is a European major studio.'

Tony Cohen, CEO of FremantleMedia, added that Ufa Cinema is 'one of FremantleMedia's most significant investments in drama. Our plan is now to create a high volume of quality feature length films with full big screen potential. German film has gone from strength to strength and we see the market as a springboard from which to roll out this local market film studio model to other markets. France and Spain are potential markets for the future.'

UFA, which developed into Germany's largest producer of content for TV after being acquired by Bertelsmann in 1964, had made the occasional foray into feature film production over the years. Films included the German comedian Dieter Hallervorden's Didi, Der Schnueffler, Der Experte and Didi, Der Doppelgaenger in the 1980s.

More recently, UFA produced Andreas Dresen's Willenbrock, which premiered at the Berlinale's Panorama section in 2005, and was involved in the development of a big budget English-language adaptation of the bestselling Donna Cross novel Pope Joan.