RAI Cinema has firmly denied trade reports that it has closed a deal with StudioCanal to become its Italian distribution partner. President & CEO Giancarlo Leone said negotiations with the French company are continuing but insisted that he is also talking to other potential European supplier partners for its upcoming theatrical releasing label that will launched by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Leone announced the names of the first two titles that RAI Cinema will produce with legendary Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis: La Donna Con La Pistola (The Woman With The Gun), directed by Russia's Andrei Konchalovsky, and The Tunic by Italian filmmaker Carlo Carlei.

The Woman With The Gun is a contemporary thriller with a strong social theme, while The Tunic will be set in Ancient Rome. Shooting on both films is expected to start in 2001.

Leone also said that RAI Cinema is currently holding talks with independent US production outfits for the acquisition of single films and not packages.

"We have to get out of the classic output and volume deals with US majors," he said. "The strength of the dollar means that the studios must change their distribution strategy and target their products more carefully."

Vice-president Carlo Macchitella said RAI Cinema aimed to acquire local distribution rights to US mainstream, European and local titles that it co-produces. About 40% of films will be bought from the US, and 60% from Europe and Italy.

"Our strategy is to be present on the Italian market with strong US films, which will then put more pressure on local exhibitors to showcase European and Italian films," Macchitella said.

RAI Cinema is currently co-producing Giuseppe Piccioni's La Luce Dei Miei Occhi, and (Bread And Tulips) Silvio Soldini's Leri. Both are also produced by Albachiara, the new Italian outfit formed by Mikado, Lumiere & Co and De Agostino. RAI Cinema is also a co-producer on a new film by veteran Italian director Dino Risi.