New Line International has slotted the final key pieces into the worldwide distribution structure on its ambitious $300m Lord Of the Rings trilogy currently shooting in New Zealand. The Time Warner-owned studio is now rallying its partners for a massive coordinated promotional and merchandising blitz for the worldwide simultaneous release of the first film The Fellowship Of The Ring on Dec 14, 2001.

C+P, the buying alliance between StudioCanal and Pathe, has bought the films for Benelux and Ernesto Di Sarro's start-up distributor Nexo Pictures has taken them for Italy.

During AFM, NLI president and New Line co-chairman of worldwide marketing Rolf Mittweg closed a package deal with Di Sarro, a cinema owner who formed Nexo contingent on the New Line deal. Nexo took eight pictures initially - Frequency, The Cell, Town And Country, 15 Minutes, Lost Souls, Final Destination, Knockaround Guys and Boiler Room - but had options on the trilogy.

The C+P deal marks the first time that New Line has sold all rights to the alliance.

Mittweg said that each of the films would be released simultaneously across the world - a rarely attempted strategy which was last tried by DreamWorks SKG and UIP with The Prince Of Egypt at Christmas 1998. A worldwide merchandising effort is now being put into place.