Adding to its flurry of US production deals Germany's Helkon Media has taken majority control of US film finance boutique Newmarket Capital Group.

The deal was conducted through the wholly-owned Helkon International and involved the exercise of options on a further 32% of Newmarket's capital in addition to the 19% it bought in January (Screendaily, Jan 20).

Helkon has upped its US presence through a co-financing venture with Chuck Roven's Atlas Entertainment and a two-year agreement with producers Warren Zide and Craig Perry (American Pie, Final Destination) and their production company Zide/Perry. The trio are already teamed on Fusion International's Repli-Kate, a comedy that Helkon agreed to fully finance earlier this year (Screendaily May 17).

In a statement Helkon said: "through the majority stake in Newmarket and the completion of deals and joint ventures, Helkon has made substantial advances and secured its 1999/2000 budget and profit targets. The majority stake in Newmarket provides Helkon with copyright to highly attractive Hollywood productions and puts it in an unrestricted position to explioit the whole of the value creation chain."

In a similar dependence-reducing vein Helkon International Pictures (HIP) recently unveiled its own network of European distributor partners - Eagle Pictures in Italy, Tri Pictures in Spain and Redbus Film Distribution in the UK - which will jointly release movies from Hollywood producers as well as originate big-budget films that can be shot in Europe. HIP chiefs Werner Koenig and Christian Halsey-Solomon said that they expect deals in Scandinavia and Benelux to be closed imminently. In France, HIP is mulling over building its own structure (Screendaily, May 15)

The consortium marks a concerted attempt to help level the playing field with Hollywood, giving Europe a creative voice proportionate to its new-found financing clout.

Newmarket, which has been involved in the financing of more than 60 projects including Cruel Intentions, American Pie and Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy, recently teamed up with Buena Vista Film Sales (BVFS) to back Sidewalks Of New York, the latest film from Ed Burns, who will write, direct, produce and star in the film alongside his girlfriend Heather Graham and Stanley Tucci (Screendaily, Feb 17).