The UK government has announced a $9.3m (£4.5m) three-year package of support for British film festivals.

Culture Secretary James Purnell said the money was intended to raise the profile of British film and to broaden the interest in cinema.

The money will come from the National Lottery. The UK Film will make the $3.1m (£1.5m) a year support available.

Over the three years, $2.6m (£1.25m) will be allocated each year to help fund one or two festivals of international importance.

The demand for international profile would appear to limit the field to London and Edinburgh, although Sheffield hosts a globally recognised documentary event.

London has recently expanded its business profile with a finance market, while Edinburgh has launched training initiatives.

$500,000 (£250,000) will help eight smaller events of national significance.

'What we are aiming to do with this funding is to give the support to festivals to build their programmes and crucially their ability to reach audiences,' said Peter Buckingham head of distribution and exhibition at the UK Film Council.

'It could be used to help them increase screenings, reach, create training and educational opportunities, discussion forums and additional events so their profile is raised with audiences at home and abroad.'

This initiative follows the UK Film Council's consultation with the film industry earlier this year on its future funding and policy priorities.

'The UK is the third largest film industry in the world and we know that people in the UK love films,' said Purnell.

'Film festivals are incredibly important in bringing new, exciting and important films to audiences and in the process deliver cultural, social and educational benefits.

'The UK's film festivals showcase creativity and create economic, company, and global value for the UK film industry. I hope this new fund will help festivals to boost their pulling power on the global stage.'

John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council, said: 'We've got a very diverse array of film festivals in the UK, achieving great results with relatively little funding.

'With a bit more targeted support we believe that the bar can be raised for the benefit of UK audiences and for filmmakers from the UK and around the world. That's why we are committing £4.5 million of additional funding over the next three years to a new festival strategy.'