Venture capital groupMercapital has invested Euros 55m in Spanish exhibition company Grupo Abaco tobecome the majority shareholder.

The operation leaves Abaco president Manuel Ramirez andgeneral manager Fernando Robredo with remaining shares and continued directionof the company. The Valencia-based firm owns 157 screens in 16 theatres acrossSpain.

The investment will allow Abaco to follow through onfive-year expansion plans, which include buying up smaller chains inSpainsimilar to its 2003 buy-out of Ster Cinema's 21 screens.

Abaco is also revving up its production division, AbacoMovies, with a new slate of two features per year following on from debutco-productions School Of Seduction(2004) and Tangiers (2003).

Writer-director Inaki Dorronsoro's La Distancia is in pre-production for a June 1 shoot in Madridand Valencia with MadridSur Producciones. The Euros 3.2m film stars FedericoLuppi, Jose Coronado, Daniel Liotti and Belen Lopez in the story of adown-and-out boxer lured into a murder plot.

In co-production with DeA Planeta and Exponencial Argentinais Quiereme starring Dario Grandinettiand Luis Brandoni for director Beda Docampo. The story follows an agingArgentinean man forced by the appearance of his granddaughter to reconnect withhis family, losing his attractive young girlfriend and happy-go-lucky lifestylein the process.

Abaco Movies has another two films in development, both withnewcomer writer-director Juan Dapena: thriller Agatha, also with MadridSur Producciones; and English-languagemystery Fragmented, for whichAbaco plans to seek co-producers in the UK and France. Abaco's Isidro Requena,Javier Ramirez and Esther Ruizwill present the projects in Cannes.