As befits a public company with offices in Toronto, Los Angeles and Vancouver, there have been many cogs in Peace Arch Entertainment's machinery.

For years, the company has operated successfully as a producer, buyer and distributor of feature, television and home entertainment programming, and now it is ramping up operations in the theatrical arena.

"We're looking to build a North American distribution and international sales company for features," says company president and former entertainment attorney John Flock.

"Last year we made or acquired about 24 films, four or five of which were intended for theatrical release. We've got two new ones in the slot now and we're aiming to do four to six of these each year."

Until recently, the emphasis had been on smaller, arthouse fare with limited appeal that was sold out of London by former sales chief Penny Wolf. Now the plan is to increase the scale and star power of theatrical projects, as evidenced by the two most recent projects on the slate that new executive vice-president of international sales Julie Sultan will begin selling in Cannes.

Winged Creatures boasts an ensemble cast of Forest Whitaker, Guy Pearce, Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Hudson and Dakota Fanning as survivors of a random shooting in a Los Angeles restaurant. Peace Arch acquired the project from producer Robert Salerno, with whom it worked on the John Lennon assassination drama Chapter 27 that premiered at Sundance. Filming on Winged Creatures wrapped recently under the aegis of Little Fish director Rowan Woods. A domestic deal is close.

The other title is The Deal, a romantic comedy about the making of a film that brings together Meg Ryan and William H Macy and is directed by Steven Schachter. Peace Arch put money into the production, which also wrapped in the last couple of weeks.

"This is a wonderful group of people to work for," says Sultan, who previously served as vice-president of international sales at Lakeshore Entertainment and is based in Los Angeles. "They really know what they want in terms of the quality and cast of the projects they handle. They've brought in projects that can be released theatrically in the States and have commercial prospects around the world."

The Cannes slate includes existing projects such as the comedy Watching The Detectives with Lucy Liu and Cillian Murphy that recently premiered at Tribeca, fantasy drama Guantanamero, Second World War drama In Tranzit, Sundance premiere Delirious with Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt, and Chapter 27.

The type of films typified by Winged Creatures and The Deal is, Flock says, merely the beginning.

"Our long-range plan is to become a distributor ourselves, along the lines of ThinkFilm. It would be a limited theatrical release, but it would be a genuine release. We have the credibility as a financier and sales company and we want to build into a domestic distribution business. We can create the product and will acquire as well. We are well connected to do this."