Dendy Films' executives Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten are leaving the company to establish a new Australian/New Zealand distributor, Transmission, that will conduct most of its business through a joint venture with Paramount's local theatrical and home entertainment divisions.

The deal was negotiated with Paramount in the US and is being painted by the players involved as providing the best of both worlds: the focused hands-on attention to detail of an independent and the marketing and sales strength of a major studio.

Up to ten films a year are likely to be released under the three-year arrangement, with the majority acquired from outside Australia and NZ. UK-based acquisitions executive Iain Canning, who has been working with Dendy and sister sales agency Becker International, is also on board. He will represent Becker for the last time at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin.

In a separate twist to the deal, Canning and producer Emile Sherman have set up See-Saw Films (see separate story) a new production entity with a first-look deal with the new distribution joint venture.

'Over the last few years the majors have started playing more and more in the independent end of the pool and that was something Andrew and I weighed up when we decided to work independently again after six years at Dendy,' Payten told Screendaily.

'Distribution can be a tough game and it made sense to join forces with a major. We can utilise their buying power and the muscle they bring to distribution.'

Dendy has been releasing 16 to 20 films per year of very different styles and genres. Upcoming titles include the Australian films Night, Ten Empty and Death Defying Acts, and US picture The King Of Kong. Transmission is likely to handle less small films according to Payten.

'One of the reasons we wanted to get in with Andrew and Richard and also Iain in the UK is that they have such good links to the independent sales community,' said Paramount Pictures Australia managing director Mike Selwyn.

Since Paramount began operations on January 1 2007, in the wake of UIP's closure, Selwyn has often spoken of his wish to supplement the studio line-up with strong independent production, including Australian films. As far as Selwyn knows, the deal with Transmission is the first of its kind for Paramount.

Selwyn was speaking from the New Zealand set of Toa Fraser's UK/New Zealand co-production Dean Spanley, a father-and-son story starring Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam and Bryan Brown.

He said that while there was no intention of channelling Vantage films through Transmission, or any others that flow through under Paramount 's various labels, two prior Paramount Pictures International acquisitions will be distributed by the new joint venture. Dean Spanley is one and the other is director Vicente Amorim's UK drama Good, which stars Viggo Mortensen and is in post-production.

Paramount handled theatrical bookings for about 30 films distributed through The Globe Film Company, Payten and Mackie's original distribution company, on a fee-for-service basis between 1994 and 2002. Globe became part of the Becker Group when the pair were hired to run distribution company Becker Entertainment. They took control of Dendy, which Becker had also bought, when Troy Lum moved on to set up Hopscotch.

The Becker Group was bought by the Prime Media Group for its television assets in mid-2007 and several companies are now vying for Dendy Films, Dendy Cinemas and an outdoor cinema venture. It is understood that the contenders include Icon, and a consortium that includes the US-based Reading cinema group and Russell and Richard Becker. The father-and-son pair were stopped from acquiring Dendy by Australia 's Takeovers Panel soon after the Prime sale.

Payten and Mackie resigned on January 4 but held back talking publicly about their plans until this week. They will be in their new office in the Sydney suburb of Paddington from Monday but will fly to Berlin mid-week.