German mini-studio Kinowelt has moved into Eastern Europe by setting up Kinowelt Hungary and is aiming to have distribution operations in Poland, Estonia and Lithuania. It is also positioning itself to capitalise on the growing DVD market.

Kinowelt subsidiary Kinowelt International (KI) pacted with Hungary's Budapest Film to launch Kinowelt Hungary (KH) on Jan 1, with KI holding a majority 51% stake. KH's focus will be theatrical distribution with up to 25 mainstream titles being released in 2000, including films drawn from the parent company's output deal with New Line and commercially attractive European titles.

Since privatisation in 1992 Budapest has developed into one of Hungary's leading film companies. It now has eight cinemas, owns Hungary's third largest film distributor and the Odeon video retail chain. Kinowelt said its move into Hungary was motivated by the country's position as a leading candidate to join the European Union, its recent economic growth and the building of new cinemas which expands the potential for theatrical distribution.

Meanwhile KI also signed a letter of intent for the establishment of a new distributor in Poland and entered discussions for the acquisition of a minority stake in Lithuanian distributor GPI. GPI recently sub-distributed Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me in Lithuania and Estonia for Kinowelt.

Back in its native Germany, Kinowelt Home Entertainment's majority-owned DVD mastering plant Digital Images is set to become Europe's largest DVD studio following a takeover of the Potsdam-based DVD-Lab. "Through the transfer of the we can make use of DVD-Lab's development work on complex DVD productions. This gives us a considerable competitive advantage in the dynamic DVD market", said Digital Images managing director Ernst Borger.

Kinowelt plans to release 200 titles a year on DVD from 2000, including music titles from the EuroArts library of classical concerts and popular music which it acquired earlier last year.

  • Rainer Koelmel, co-CEO of Kinowelt has set up his own co-production label Starhaus Productions, which will be run independently of Kinowelt. The first project it is involved in is Daybreak by Bernard Rudden which recently wrapped in Scotland, a film which is also the first film produced by FilmFour Lab.