France's StudioCanal has finalised the long sought after Italian link in its European theatrical distribution chain, unveiling a partnership with RAI Cinema, the start-up film arm of public broadcaster RAI.

The two partners will hold equal shares in the company, which is expected to complete StudioCanal's international distribution network. The operation is to launch by the end of next month and release at least 15 titles over the 2001-2002 season.

It remains unclear which titles from StudioCanal will go through the RAI partnership and which will be handled by UIP, the international distribution venture co-owned by StudioCanal parent Vivendi Universal. UIP has also been discussing partnerships with RAI, although this may be on an international rather than Italian level.

StudioCanal has recently set up international distribution partnerships with Pathe in the UK, BAC in France, Sogepaq in Spain, Tobis in Germany and A-Film in Benelux. Last month, Montreal-based TVA International signed a three-year agreement with the French operation to handle its product across Canada.