HBO Films hascemented its theatrical ambitions with the launch of a domestic releasing armsupported by a distribution partnership with Fine Line Features, the specialtydistribution division of HBO's AOL Time Warner sister company New LineCinema.

United Artistsmarketing chief Dennis O'Connor has been brought in to head up the newunit - called HBO Films Domestic Theatrical Releasing - and will be responsiblefor domestic distribution and marketing as well as overseeing the relationshipwith Fine Line.

The first twofilms to be released under the arrangement will be Shari Springer Berman andRobert Pulcini's Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner American Splendor on Aug 15 and Gus Van Sant's Palmed'Or winner Elephant on Oct 24.

Speaking toScreen yesterday, Callender said: "American Splendor has worked very well and we wanted tofind a way of expanding this partnership where we would remain a principal andrelease films under our banner with the support of Fine Line and NewLine."

"[FineLine president] Mark Ordesky, Russell Schwartz, Steven Friedlander and MarianKoltai-Levine are a wonderful team."

Callender addedthat HBO Films had become increasingly encouraged by the response to itsfestival entries and was keen to use its marketing and promotional skills tofind theatrical audiences, which the Fine Line deal would allow the company todo on a film-by-film basis.

He said the biggerbudget event movies would continue to be a vital part of programming onHBO's subscription services.

"This wasnot a forced synergy. It happened organically on American Splendor," Ordesky told Screen.

"Therelationship is greater than the sum of its parts. HBO isn't merely acontent provider and has such a rich network of talented people and resources.It's going to be an amazing relationship."

The appointmentof O'Connor is crucial to the set-up. He joins the company from UnitedArtists, where he served as head of marketing and oversaw campaigns for MichaelMoore's Oscar-winning Bowling For Columbine and Michael Winterbottom's 24Hour Party People amongothers.

Prior to that hewas vice president of theatrical distribution for Universal Focus and headedthe theatrical division for Trimark Pictures.

"We wantedsomeone who could help us put this partnership together and Dennis brings tothe table really broad distribution and marketing experience," Callendersaid.

O'Connorwill be based in Los Angeles and report directly to Callender.

Foreign sales inall media will be handled by HBO Films London, the fledgling division runjointly by Rosa Bosch and Penny Wolf that was unveiled at Cannes earlier thisyear.