Universal Pictures International (UPI) has formed a partnership with Australian independent production company Hopscotch Features to develop, produce and distribute films for the global marketplace.

UPI will have a two-year, first-look deal with Hopscotch under the terms of the deal, which will see UPI and Hopscotch developing and producing Australian films that have international appeal, using key local and international talent. All titles will be jointly distributed theatrically by UPI and Hopscotch in Australia. 

The partnership with Hopscotch is the latest international alliance as part of the studio’s strategy to form links with local producers in different countries. In 2009, UPI invested in Italian production company Cattleya and German production outfit UFA Films. 

Speaking to ScreenDaily, UPI president of acquisitions and production Christian Grass said: “Hopscotch has a really strong development slate and they are working with really cool local talent. Australia is a market that has a lot of talent and is very outward looking and on top of that it is English language, so it’s good for the global market.”

He added: “We like to work in several countries, with local partners that have strong development slates and a strong production track record, with the intention of making films for both the local and international markets. In some markets like France, we would always try to work with different partners, whereas in a market like Australia, it makes sense for us to have one local partner.”

UPI and Hopscotch are now in the process of identifying the first project to come out of the deal. The Australian production company is currently developing a number of features with Australian talent including Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert director Stephan Elliott, Beautiful Kate director Rachel Ward and Lantana director Ray Lawrence, as well as teaming up with the UK’s Ruby Films on a feature, Saving Mr Banks.

Hopscotch principal Troy Lum described the deal as a “fantastic outcome for Hopscotch Features as it gives us international expertise and muscle to make more larger scale local features. It is also a great result for the Australian industry in general as it shows real studio commitment to our cinema landscape and specifically the local talent that makes it happen.” 

Mike Baard, MD of UPI Australia, added: “Since setting up the new theatrical business for Universal four years ago, we have looked for the right partner with whom to develop locally produced content for both Australian and international audiences. I am delighted that Universal and Hopscotch can combine our expertise to fulfill this ambition.”