Furtherdetails have emerged of how UK distributorOptimum Releasing is going to expand following its acquisition by French major,StudioCanal.

Optimum'smanaging director Will Clarke refused to say how much StudioCanalpaid for the company he founded in 1999, but rival distributors werespeculating that it could have been as much as $31.7m (Euros 25m). Whatever thetrue figure, it is a huge return on the $22,190 (£12,000) that Chairman Paul Higginsinvested to get the company off the ground seven years ago.

"It's adecent amount of money for the operation we've built," Clarke told ScreenDaily.com of the purchase price."Basically, the company has been bought 100% on a creative deal that isbeneficial for both parties. It's not stock, it's cash, but it's very much a creativedeal that means we are motivated to make the most profits in the United Kingdom."

Under theterms of the deal, Clarke and his team will have a "first-look" at releasingsuch prestige forthcoming StudioCanal titles as Wong Kar-Wai's The Lady From Shanghai and David Lynch'sInland Empire.

Meanwhile,the UK company's DVD arm willbe used to release StudioCanal's vast arsenal oflibrary titles. This includes the Carolco Library,the Ealing titles, and the Embassy Library. The French company owns rights to1400 British films, everything from TheDam Busters to The Ladykillers.

Optimum saidit now plans to release up to 400 DVD titlesthis year alone.

Meanwhile,it will be looking for "bigger" titles to release theatrically in the UK.

"We willbe acquiring films that make sense for the local market. If we feel a Frenchfilm makes sense to theatrically release, we will be putting it out there intothe marketplace, but there is no obligation for us to release the films from StudioCanal's production and sales operations," Clarkesaid. However, he added that "there is a willingness to find films that wecan co-buy. In an ideal world, we will be getting a lot of product from theirinternational sales and production operations."

Clarkestated that Optimum will be able to acquire smaller titles autonomously butthat he will "collaborate with France" onbigger, studio-level pick-ups.

OptimumReleasing will retain its name. Clarke and his partner, Danny Perkins, Optimum's head of distribution, are tied to thecompany for five years.

In its London offices,Optimum currently employs 24 people. Clarke said that he will be looking toramp up staffing levels by 12 to 15 people.

The aim,he continued, is to create "a one-stop shop that can do everything frommainstream theatrical releases to specialist theatrical releases to a verybroad base of DVD titles."

TheOptimum boss emphasised that he will continue to support UK film-makers."We will be looking to buy mainstream British movies that may be able to fitinto StudioCanal, their sales operations, theirFrench operation and their own production ambition. It's not a major push onthe production front, but we've got an appetite for discussing with producersfilms that make sense for both territories."