UK distributor Momentum Pictures has picked up UK theatrical, TV and home video rights to HBO Films' My House In Umbria, a drama based on the William Trevor novel starring Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall and Ronnie Barker and directed by Richard Loncraine. The sale, closed by Momentum with HBO's worldwide distribution arm HBO Enterprises, coincides with a new offensive into international theatrical markets by the US pay-TV giant for its movies which premiere exclusively on TV in the US.

HBO Films president Colin Callender held a press breakfast here yesterday, unveiling the company's new slate and suggesting that the major studios' increasing focus on blockbuster franchise pictures is leaving a gap in the marketplace for director-driven pictures such as Mike Nichols' Wit, John Frankenheimer's Path To War and Mick Jackson's currently shooting Live In Baghdad starring Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter. "Sophisticated, intelligent, well-made drama is an endangered species," he says.

But will theatrical buyers overseas go for movies with no US theatrical release such as Patricia Cardoso's Sundance hit Real Women Have Curves, an HBO Films production for which Callender has had to reject numerous offers from enthusiastic domestic buyers' "Increasingly international distributors are recognising the potential value of what we're doing in the domestic marketplace," he claimed. "We spend a lot of money in the A of P&A. Which is more than you can say for the many films which are sold in foreign under the guise of getting a US theatrical release, but which never do."

Callender also announced upcoming pictures on the HBO Films production slate including Pancho Villa As Himself to be directed by Bruce Beresford and produced by Mark Gordon, Normal to be directed by Jane Anderson and star Jessica Lange and Tom Wilkinson, and the long-awaited film of Tony Kushner's Angels In America starring Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Meryl Streep.