Pathe and BBC Films areworking with the UK Film Council's Development Fund to launch a new fund todevelop film projects.

The parties have committed aminimum of $560,000 (£300,000) for the fund's first 12 months - $280,000 (£150,000)from the UK Film Council and $140,000 (£75,000) each from BBC Films and Pathe. The fund is tied to butseparate from the UKFC's previously announced superslate funding.

The new fund, to be usedonly for feature films, is functional immediately. The parties said that by"combining resources to identify properties with commercial potential thatmight previously have been seen as too expensive to either acquire or develop."

They noted that above andbeyond the initial seed funding, Pathe and the BBC would be able to "move quickly to mobilise whatever funds might benecessary to make a decisive move on a property or writer whose market valuemay be substantially higher than this initial funding commitment."

"We've nothingin development yet - we want the announcement to act as a signal to theindustry that we're willing to pay top dollar for the right project.There is no ceiling on the level of investment we might make in the rightproject," Pathe deputy managing director CameronMcCracken told

Pathemanaging director Francois Ivernel noted that the newfund would help these UKplayers compete with Hollywoodfor new talents that could turn out to be the next Richard Curtis or to createthe next Harry Potter franchise. "Suchmajor properties or talent rarely appear on the market, but when they do, weare conscious that too often (and not without some justification) the perceptionis that only the US studios can afford to bid for such talent or engage in suchmajor developments," he said. "We want to make everyone aware -- talent,publishers, agents, whoever -- that we are ready to step up to the plate forthe right projects. Given the close personal and business relationship that wehave built up with the BBC and the UK Film Council over the past several years(most recently as a recipient of a slate fund award), this partnership toengage in the development of 'bigger' properties feels a perfect fit."

David Thompson, head of BBCFilms, said the new fund would build on the Beeb'scurrent relationship with Pathe. "We need key partners at the development stage if weare to be really competitive in the search for the most attractive projects andwe are sure that Pathe and the BBC will be a very good fit," he said.

Added Jenny Borgars, head of the UKFC'sDevelopment Fund: "Providing British producers with real resource todevelop partnerships that both benefit their businesses and allow them toacquire attractive film material was one of the prime reasons for setting upthe slate funding machinery. I'm absolutely delighted for Patheand the BBC that the slate funding has been the catalyst forthis new partnership which will lead to exciting opportunities for Britishtalent and major new films."