German mini-studio Kinowelt is continuing its expansion into Eastern Europe by establishing a Russian distribution outfit, Gemini Kinomir, in partnership with Bodo Scriba's Moscow-based distributor Gemini International.

The new company will handle Kinowelt's existing slate and take over from Gemini International as exclusive distributor of 20th Century Fox product in Russia. Kinowelt has been actively preparing for its Eastern expansion by acquiring East European rights to film packages that it buys for other territories - notably a three-year output deal with Chuck Gordon's Daybreak Productions and a four-picture deal with Beacon Communications - and by ensuring that it has East European rights when it is a financier or co-producer.

Kinowelt's international arm, Kinowelt International, will hold a 40% stake in the joint venture, which will increase to 55% in 2002. It will be managed by Kinowelt International CEO Alexander van Dulmen as executive director together with Michael Schlicht as CEO. The company expects turnover of $4.5m between July and December 2000 and $12m in 2001.

Scriba, a veteran German producer, launched Gemini in the Russian market in 1994 with Schlicht at the helm. The company ranked third amongst Russian distributors in 1999 with a market share of about 25%.

Kinowelt has expanded aggressively into Eastern Europe in the last few months and claims to cover 75% of the total Eastern European market through joint ventures and licensing deals in Poland, Russia, Hungary, the Baltic states, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. In July it launched a joint distribution venture with Poland's Best Film which followed a similar venture with Hungary's Budapest Film in January.