German mini-studio Kinowelt has launched a joint distribution venture with Poland's Best Film, confirming the company's intention to set up its own distribution operations across Eastern Europe (Screendaily, January 19).

The new venture, Best Film International, is expected to take over as distributor of all Kinowelt's films in Poland and to have operations that range from theatrical release to home entertainment and rights licensing. It will be 51% owned by Kinowelt and is expected to open its doors at the beginning of next month. Kinowelt International's managing director Alexander van Duelmen will head the new outfit.

Kinowelt launched a joint venture in January to cover Hungary with local distributor Budapest Film and said it would next expand into Poland, Estonia and Lithuania. The company 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 forecast that the new company will have turnover of $2.7m (DM5.5m) by the end of the year and in 2001, its first full year, see sales climb to $9.2m (DM19m) with profit margins of 10%. That compares with Best Film's turnover of $3.6m (DM7.5m) last year, when it ranked as Poland's fourth biggest distributor behind Syrena, Vision and UIP.