Swiss distributor and rights trader Highlight Communications has boosted its international profile by signing a three-year output deal with UK director Mike Newell's start-up outfit Fifty Cannon Entertainment.

Highlight will take all rights in German-speaking territories to Fifty Cannon's slate and also has the option to co-produce certain projects, acquiring additional European rights in all media.

Fifty Cannon plans to produce between six and nine features during the course of the three-year deal, not all of which will be directed by Newell. Finance will be provided by Highlight in partnership with MM Media Capital Partners, the film financing outfit which pledged Fifty Cannon a $300m production financing facility last October (Screen International, October 14, 1999). As Newell is represented by the ICM talent agency, the Highlight/Fifty Cannon venture will also benefit from ICM's packaging services and have access to the agency's directors, writers and stars.

Meanwhile Fifty Cannon's Los Angeles-based president Cameron Jones has appointed former William Morris Agency executive Brent Travers as vice president, feature production to work with him on the supervision of the Highlight/Fifty Cannon slate. Fifty Cannon has also unveiled plans to open a London office in the near future.