Video operation Paramount Home Entertainment (PHE) is funding the UK theatrical release of local thriller The Criminal in a drive to bolster its slate with acquisitions in local markets, PHE confirmed.

PHE will cover p&a costs for a November release on at least 50 prints for the Palm Pictures and Storm Entertainment co-production, which was recently acquired by Paramount Pictures for the UK and Australia. UK independent distributor Downtown Pictures will handle physical distribution.

PHE is also in talks with United International Pictures (UIP) to channel a series of further local acquisitions through the international theatrical distributor, in which Paramount Pictures is a partner. Amongst the films under discussion are titles from a long-term distribution deal between PHE and Swiss-German company Highlight.

Further acquisitions see PHE striking a deal with Spain's Planeta 2010, with which UIP has also agreed a separate distribution pact for theatrical.

The increased focus on local acquisitions comes after Paramount and Universal Pictures disbanded their joint international video distribution operation CIC. "As PHE rather than CIC we have less product flow," said UK managing director Trevor Francis, who annually oversees eight to 10 theatrical titles from the operation's US studio parent.

Whether PHE funds p&a costs on further theatrical releases is expected to be decided on a title by title basis. Francis said "it is conceivable" that PHE will fund p&a costs on titles routed through UIP. The Criminal is the feature debut of writer-director Julian Simpson and stars Steven Mackintosh, Bernard Hill, Natasha Little, Holly Aird and Eddie Izzard. It was produced by Chris Johnson, David Chapman and Mark Aarons.