UPDATE: Daniel Battsek has transitioned to a consultancy role and will advise a new partnership between Hyde Park / ImageNation and National Geographic Features Group.

The development comes as it emerged that National Geographic Films shut down and closed the Los Angeles office on Dec 20.

The joint venture will produce a range of National Geographic-themed features, documentaries and television series and will be funded at least in part by the $100m production and acquisitions pot established between National Geographic Entertainment and Hyde Park partner Imagenation Abu Dhabi in October 2008.

Hyde Park will manage the joint venture and that company’s chairman Ashok Amritraj will serve as CEO. Hyde Park International will represent worldwide rights to the features.

“This venture will advance our relationship with both Hyde Park and National Geographic,” Image Nation Abu Dhabi chairman Mohamed Al Mubarak said. “At the same time it will provide another great opportunity for young Emirati filmmakers to gain real world, hands-on experience that will help build their personal/professional networks so critical to success in the motion picture industry.”

“Hyde Park and National Geographic have enjoyed a close relationship with Image Nation over the years, and by aligning the two brands, we create a dynamic venture that will deliver high-quality entertainment to audiences around the world,” Amritraj said.

“We like Hyde Park’s approach to the business, their growth and success in Asia, and the fact that Ashok and his team are already working closely with our partner, Image Nation,” National Geographic Society president Tim Kelly said. “This partnership makes sense from all angles, and by folding our current feature film effort into this new venture, we will be able to pursue bigger, more ambitious projects and expand into growing markets like India and China.”

Earlier on Thursday (Dec 22) it emerged that National Geographic Films was closing down. Longtime staff members have been notifying industry contacts this week about the development.

The company maintained a very low profile in the theatrical arena in the two years since Battsek arrived as president in January 2010. Since that time National Geographic Films did not make any notable acquisitions or stage any significant theatrical releases.

Indeed people associated with the company revealed recently that there had been a deliberate shift away from the theatrical arena in a possible foreshadowing of what was to come.

Arguably the company’s finest hour came in 2005 when it partnered with the now defunct Warner Independent Pictures on the release of March Of The Penguins (pictured).

Battsek’s predecessor Adam Leipzig acquired the film and it went on to gross more than $77m in North America and won the best documentary Oscar in 2006.