Quinta Communications boss Tarak Ben Ammar has spelled out his bold new
vision for a pan-European distribution network supported by his partners at bankers Goldman Sachs.

Speaking by videolink at yesterday's Screen International's European Film Financing summit in Berlin, the Franco-Tunisian mogul outlined ambitious plans which inevitably reminded many in the audience of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment's empire building in the 1990s

Ammar is on the board of directors of the Weinstein Company, also supported
by Goldman Sachs. He has been operating as a strategic partner for the bank, which also has a stake in Canadian outfit Alliance Atlantis, owner of Momentum in the UK and Aurum in Spain.

In recent months, Ammar has been on an aggressive acquisition spree. Late last year, he swooped on Italian distributor Eagle Pictures. He is negotiating with Scanbox to be the Scandinavian partner. Now, as he seeks to build his alliance further, Ammar is in talks to take over an 'important' French distributor and is also eyeing a German partner.

Ammar's analysis is as follows: around 500 films are distributed every year in the key European territories. 250 to 300 come from major companies. The rest are independent movies: either local films or English-speaking pictures from independent companies. 'We are assuming there are 250 movies a year that are not distributed by major companies.'

The aim of Ammar's new alliance is to distribute around 20 of these pictures a year. It will operate as 'a one-stop shop' for independent producers. The five European partners, possibly working in tandem with Canada (Alliance Atlantis) would 'pre-buy, co-finance or co-produce' films which it would then distribute in its territories.

The new partnership would market and distribute its films across all the territories simultaneously.

'Our desire is to be an independent European distributor that offers the same quality as the majors,' Ammar declared. 'We, with Momentum, Aurum, Eagle, my French distribution partner that I am negotiating with, Scanbox and eventually Canada as part of our team, can offer producers day and date marketing strategies and also cross-collaterisation.'

Ammar predicted that during the likely 'credit crunch' of 2008/2009, producers will be enthusiastic about a new alliance that can provide so much marketing and distribution muscle. 'At the end of the day, the producers will always see overages if there are overages. And it is easier to spread the risk over five or six territories than just to have it on one territory.'

The Quinta boss acknowledged that other pan-European alliances were springing up. 'Canal Plus is going to be one, Wild Bunch is going to be one and maybe others.'

He added that the aim was not to compete headlong with the majors or try to
make tentpole movies. 'We are looking for that movie that the majors might not want. Also, we may co-finance pictures with majors and take some European territories.'

Ammar has set a five year plan to turn the new group into 'a multi-billion group' with output deals with pay-TV and free TV.