Australian production outfit Mushroom Pictures (Chopper, Gettin' Square) and Auckland based distributor Rialto Entertainment have formed a joint venture to produce thrillers and contemporary horror movies along the lines of 28 Days Later.

The aim for the initial 18-month period of the deal is to develop, finance, produce and distribute a "cutting-edge genre picture" from Australia and another from New Zealand.

"The advantage is that we will be jointly producing films that we agree on - with Mushroom Pictures as the producer and Rialto as the executive producer -- which means the production and distribution elements are in sync," Mushroom chief executive Martin Fabinyi told

"This is something that doesn't always happen in Australia. It also means that with Arclight on board internationally as a third partner in this deal, we are in a better position to get our pictures a green light."

Rialto is an Auckland-based distributor working in both territories. Recent releases include American Splendor, The Cat's Meow, Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War, Real Women Have Curves and Rain.

Mushroom Pictures is a key Sydney-based production house, which is also developing a number of projects that sit outside this joint venture. Fabinyi has been examining ways of having some control over distribution for some time.