The UK Film Council has called for applications for its UK Film Distribution Programme, a $1.7m (£1m) fund for supporting British films at UK cinemas.

Films selected trigger the award by grossing at least $1.25m (£750,000) at the box-office. The maximum award will be $500,000 (£300,000), although the sum paid out will reduce the better a film performs.

This first call for applications is for films to be released between August 1 and November 30 this year.

The aim to is to offset distributors' risk and encourage wider releases of British films and a greater marketing investment. The council also hopes distributors will raise their involvement in the production sector at financing stage.

The concept of a reward scheme has been criticised in some quarters for supposedly only boosting films that are already on the road to success, but other European countries already operate similar initiatives on far grander scales.

The German Federal Film Board last year handed out $24m in retroactive funding to around 100 producers and distributors as a reward for successful theatrical releases of German films. The German award is granted if a film hits 100,000 admissions.

"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," said Peter Buckingham, head of distribution and exhibition at council.