Italian publishing giantGruppo DeAgostini has taken over local arthouse distributor Mikado from itsfounding partners Luigi Musini and Roberto Cicutto. The pair has operated thecompany for 25 years and will step aside as managers to handle the productionarm of the company.

Mikado has distributedinternational films such as Zhang Yimou's Raise The Red Lantern and local hits like Ferzan Ozpetek's 2003 Facing Windows as well as titles byMario Monicelli and Silvio Soldini.

The takeover givesDeAgostini - which has held 51% of the market share of the independent distributorsince 2000 - a stronger foothold into the local film business, with an eye toexpand into international markets. DeAgostini is also reportedly in talks tobuy production outfit Magnolia, creators of Italy's version of CelebritySurvivor.

The publishing group, knownamong other things for its line of scholastic and specialized magazines, hasalready made a step into distribution under the DeAgostini Communications subsidiary,which distributes films in Spain through the DeA Planeta group. DeA Planetaadditionally holds 43% share in Spain's Antena3 TV network.

DeAgostini's web siteconfirms their readiness to 'dedicate a significant part of theirresources ' to the media and communication sector, an area with high potentialfor transnational growth. DeAgostini Communications subsidiary aims to developinga branch oriented to TV content production, cinema and all other forms of media.'