French cinema is set to receive a significant boost to its UK profile with the merging of two festivals into a single focused promotional event to be held each Spring.

The UK's annual French Film Festival, first launched in 1991, is to merge with the Renault French Film Season to form the Renault French Film Festival UK.

The first joint festival will take place in key cities across the UK in March 2006 at venues, including Cineworld multiplex sites. The event has received the support of Unifrance, Total and Scottish Screen.It will continue to showcase the four titles chosen by Renault to receive £10,000 each to assist with prints and advertising costs and also screen a variety of new French titles and a retrospective.

"It's all about securing a bigger audience for French cinema throughout the UK," explains festival director Richard Mowe. "We will be making available audience figures and feedback from screenings to any UK distributor interested in assessing the potential of individual titles."

The Unifrance support will guarantee a selection of French cinema luminaries attending the event and a greater emphasising on promoting the event to UK cinemagoers.

Generic trailers extolling French cinema will run in 50 cinemas across the country and there will also be two Festival publicationsone of them cataloguing every French title scheduled for UK release in the coming year.

Titles already set for UK release in 2006 include Dominik Moll's Lemming and Francois Ozon's Time To Leave, both through ArtificialEye.The new Festival will launch its programme in January and Bertrand Tavernier has been invited as the subject of the 2006 retrospective.