Kinowelt USA, the recently set-up US film production arm of German film giant Kinowelt, has signed its first major producer deal - with Gale Anne Hurd. Kinowelt and Hurd have entered into a multi-year, first-look development, production and distribution arrangement whereby Kinowelt USA will provide Hurd with financing to develop and produce pictures in the $20m-$80m range. Kinowelt will maintain financing and worldwide distribution rights to the films over the next five years, electing with Hurd on a picture-by-picture basis whether they will co-produce a project with a US studio distribution partner.

The deal, which was struck between Hurd and Chris Sievernich and Rainer Kolmel, the co-chairmen of Kinowelt USA, is the first of several which Kinowelt plans to strike with US producers to feed its distribution channels. The company is currently hatching a high-powered international distribution network with partners in France and Spain to complement its existing distribution outlets in Germany, Eastern Europe and, through its joint venture with Alliance Atlantis, the UK.

Hurd, whose credits include Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens, Armageddon, The Abyss, Dante's Peak, The Ghost And The Darkness and most recently Phoenix Pictures' Dick, said: "I am excited to partner with Kinowelt, one of Europe's leading and most ambitious entertainment entities. Together with Chris, Rainer and Michael, we will aggressively pursue original material to develop and produce for the worldwide marketplace."

Sievernich, formerly a co-founder of Pacifica Entertainment, joined Kinowelt in January this year as co-chairman and chief executive officer of Kinowelt USA. Kinowelt is run by Rainer Kolmel and Michael Kolmel who founded Kinowelt Medien in 1984. Kinowelt went public on the German stock exchange in May 1998 and has ongoing distribution relationships with both New Line International and Miramax International.

The agreement was negotiated by Stephen Scharf of Melveny & Meyers on
behalf of Hurd.