The UK Film Council has called on film distribution companies planning to release British films at UK cinemas between Dec 1 and March 31, 2004 to apply for support from its UK Film Distribution Programme.

The £1m funding programme is retrospective and aims to reward distributors who release British films in the UK.

The scheme is clearly aimed at medium sized releases. Any film selected must achieve a minimum UK box office gross of £750,000 in order to trigger the award. It also has to be distributed on a minimum of 175 prints and to have a p&a spend of at least £750,000. The maximum award offered for a selected film will be £300,000.

Big budget films with UK involvement -such as the Harry Potter series - would be unlikely to qualify as films deemed to be in profit would not qualify. According to Council guidelines: "If theatrical film rentals equals or exceeds the P&A figure, then no award will become payable. The film will be deemed to be in profit, taking into account potential revenue from other rights held."

Films must also qualify as British - according to Department of Media, Culture and Sport guidelines. Applications forms for the programme must reach Council by October 31, 2003.

Through the scheme, the Council aims to encourage the distribution sector to engage more fully with British film; release British films in the UK more widely and with a greater marketing investment and; retain an interest and increase involvement in the pre-purchase or negative pick-up of UK domestic product.

The Lottery-funded programme is the second of a range of measures introduced by the Council to stimulate the availability of a broader range of films at cinemas across the UK. Other measures previously announced include a £1 million fund to support the wider release of specialised films (international, classics, foreign language) and support for increasing accessibility to cinema for people with sensory impairments.

Peter Buckingham, head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council commented: "This programme has been designed to help UK distributors at the point which the release pattern of a film and its potential in reaching a broader audience at cinemas across the UK can be materially improved."