If producers look for the quickest way to expand their businesses, the usual first step is to move into sales.

But Chris Coen, who has produced Wristcutters: A Love Story, Deepwater and Michael Haneke's recent US remake of Funny Games, has taken a different sideways step, into distribution.

His London-based Halcyon Pictures has now formed Halcyon Releasing, which moves into its first major solo release on July 4 with Tom McCarthy's The Visitor.

'I thought getting into distribution was the right thing for my business. Yes, there are arguably enough UK distributors already but there's always room for a new business if you are smart about it,' Coen explains. 'We want to keep it small and grow it slowly - and not try to release 12-15 films per year.'

Halcyon bought The Visitor at November 2007's AFM from K5 International. 'I thought it was a must-have,' Coen says of the acclaimed drama about a grumpy professor whose life is changed when he meets an immigrant family in New York.

'It was the right kind of film to position the company.' After a very healthy performance at the US box office and a warm reception at the recent Edinburgh International Film Festival, the film seems poised for UK theatrical success as well, with star Richard Jenkins hotly tipped for awards recognition.

Halcyon will release The Visitor on around 21 screens, expanding to about 33 cinemas in its first four weeks. Other releases later in 2008 are Jonas Cuaron's Year Of The Nail (Ano Una) in September, Eran Riklis' Berlinale hit Lemon Tree in November and a small theatrical run for The Girl In The Park, starring Sigourney Weaver, at the end of the year.

For 2009, Halcyon has Pablo Trapero's Cannes competitor Lion's Den (Leonera) and a potential other acquisition from Cannes. The company's first pre-buy is Julie Delpy's The Countess, which is in post now for a likely Cannes 2009 launch.

After several years in Los Angeles, Coen is glad to be back in the UK film world. 'I'm in the market for UK material and I want to make and distribute UK films to support the UK industry. There's so much talent. I'd like to see the UK do more comedies, for us to have the '(Judd) Apatow thing' over here,' he says.

The next buys are likely to be out of Toronto. 'We're building a theatrical business, but we're also looking to build a DVD library,' Coen notes. DVD releases go through Liberation Media, and the company will pick up certain titles for DVD release only, including youth adventure Skykids.

Martin Myers has been serving as the company's head of sales/bookings and Coen hopes to soon expand the company to include an experienced head of distribution, which will give Coen more time to return to producing (two projects are out to directors now).