Stewart Till's ambitious Signpost Films aims to launch distribution operations in 80% of the international sector in the next three to five years, with Germany shaping up as one of the next markets.
The would-be studio is holding talks with German distributor Concorde about a partnership, one of several options on the cards for the territory. Signpost aims to set up local distribution and production operations along the lines of the so-called opcos at PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, where Till was president of international.
"We are in discussions right now with a distribution company to partner and set up an opco [in Germany]," said Darryl Iwai, president of worldwide distribution, who declined to specify any companies.
Iwai says that Signpost has sold off about "a third" of its territories on its first film, Bullet Proof Monk, although the company is yet to confirm any deals on the big budget production. Buyers are facing gross points that could climb to around 25% - but only if the film grosses well over $100m.
One key territory where Iwai is closing a deal is the UK, which he calls "a seller's market". In Australia, Monk goes out next spring as the first film through Signpost's partnership with Hoyts. In contrast to Canada, where Signpost scrapped its fledgling opco in a matter of weeks, Australia will not be up and running until closer to the release.
"To start an opco when we did was premature," Iwai said. "There was a hope that we would get some other films going earlier, before our own films hit, but it is such a competitive market."
Iwai aims to distribute between five and six films in 2003, building to between eight and 10 in years two and three. "We need to have that critical mass," he says. "The strategy that Stewart used [at PolyGram] was fantastically successful. If you look at the performance of the operating companies, they all achieved their targets or were well above."