The non-exclusive agreement is structured as a first-look deal that effectively turns Inferno into a producer on certain projects for the studio with the ability to sell foreign rights on those projects buoyed by the cachet of having a major domestic partner.
In return Sony receives product flow for its vast distribution pipeline from a company that has shot to prominence since launching in 2002. Inferno recently closed $265m of combined debt and equity production financing from a group of institutional investors that will be used to supply financing for the slate.
The first picture covered by the deal is John Glenn's psychological thriller The Heaven Project starring Paul Walker and currently shooting in Winnipeg. Inferno partner Bill Johnson describes the story as being in the vein of Jacob's Ladder.
'This is a very collaborative venture,' SPWAG's senior vice president of acquisitions and production Lara Thompson said. 'I've known Bill and Jim since my days at Momentum and when I arrived here I was thrilled to hear this was going ahead.'
'We are going to be doing multiple pictures through this deal,' Johnson said. 'Sony is going to be making an investment for domestic rights and we are going to be putting up money for international rights.'
'In the few short years that Inferno has been in the business, it has established a strong reputation for producing films in different genres with some of the most recognisable stars in the industry,' SPWAG's senior executive vice president and general manager said.
'Their movies will be a great complement to our current slate of acquisitions targeting our distribution divisions.'
Thompson said that SPWAG would 'conceivably' enter into similar agreements with other companies. 'We're looking for a lot of new product,' she said, adding that the division's buyers would be on the ground in Cannes. 'We're interested in buying all rights in all territories and we will also handle a lot of domestic ourselves.'
Inferno's development slate features Diane English's remake of George Cukor's 1939 comedy The Women, Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of Ed Abbey's eco-warrior saga The Monkey Wrench Gang based on a screenplay by William Goldman, and family drama A Dog's Story based on the true Japanese story of one man and his dog.
The company is currently in post-production on the Diane Keaton-starrer Smother, which it is producing with Jay Roach.
Johnson and Jim Seibel launched Inferno Distribution as an international sales agent in 2002 and branched out into financing and production in 2004 with a focus on projects in the $10m-30m range.