Confirming rumours that had been buildingfor weeks, French distributor StudioCanal announcedtoday that it will acquire UK distributor OptimumReleasing.

The companies said, "The deal will helpOptimum grow by combining its resources with those of StudioCanal.This will give Optimum access to one of the largest film catalogues in theworld and to StudioCanal's line-up of new films. It will also allow for larger rightsacquisitions and enable the company to strengthen its existing talentrelationships."

The deal was negotiated by Optimum'schairman Paul Higgins and managing director Will Clarke and StudioCanal'sCEO Frederic Sichler and CFO FabriceFaux. Guillaume de Verges, specialconsultant to Canal + and StudioCanal, advised on thedeal.

Since Optimum's launch in 1999, it hasworked with StudioCanal on releases of filmsincluding The Third Man,This is Spinal Tap, Breathless, and TheLadykillers.

"We have enjoyed working with the team at StudioCanal since day one of Optimum Releasing and believethis is a great opportunity for Optimum to continue growing and we look forwardto building an even bigger distribution operation in the UK, benefiting from themany qualities of both companies," Optimum's Clarke said.

Added Danny Perkins, Optimum's head of distribution:"The extra strength we will derive from being backed by a major company willallow us tomake bigger theatrical acquisitions and grow our theatrical operations as wellas enhancing our Home Entertainment operation with the best catalogue in theworld."

Optimum's past releases include Amores Perros, Wolf Creek, Spirited Away, Notre Musique,Fahrenheit 9/11 and Dead Man'sShoes. Optimum launched its home entertainment business in 2004 and hasreleased more than 250 DVD titles with a catalogueof more than 450.

Optimum executive produced Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes and is also committedto further production as a partner in the new Warp X low-budget film studiowith Warp Films, the UK Film Council and Film Four.

StudioCanal is the film production sales anddistribution arm of French media giant Canal+, owned by Vivendi.StudioCanal, created in 1987, boasts a library ofmore than 5,000 films.

"We arethrilled to build the future of StudioCanal in the UK together with Will Clarkeand his team at Optimum," said StudioCanal CEO Sichler. "What they have achieved over the last seven yearsis remarkable. Our film library, and particularly our 1400 British titles,could not be in better hands. I strongly believe that with our combined forces,StudioCanal's extensive film library and Optimum'sdynamic theatrical and video distribution, we will become a key player in the UK market."

Upcoming Optimum releases include RianJohnson's Brick (which StudioCanal has for France) and two Cannes competition titles, Nanni Moretti's The Caiman and Guillermo del Toro's Pan'sLabyrinth. StudioCanal has eight films playing inCannes, including four incompetition.