New Line Cinema has confirmed that it is finalising a deal for German distribution of its films through 2002 and 2003 with sister company Warner Bros. The arrangement will replace New Line's current German deal with financially troubled independent Kinowelt. The Kinowelt deal expires at the end of this year after the release of the first film in New Line's The Lord of The Rings trilogy.

Rolf Mittweg, president and COO of worldwide distribution and marketing for the company, said New Line has now received the last major payment, of around $9m, due from Kinowelt. He said New Line had talks about a new deal with other independent German distributors, "but ultimately we decided to go with Warner because in Germany it's all about marketplace clout." Warner's first New Line release will be Rush Hour 2, for launch early next year, with Life As a House, I Am Sam, John Q and Blade 2 among the titles to follow.

The Warner deal, said Mittweg, is "a very satisfactory financial arrangement for New Line" and covers all rights for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. New Line is negotiating a separate deal for the Eastern European territories, including Russia, that also fell under the pact with Kinowelt.

New Line product is currently distributed by Warner in a handful of other international territories, including several in South America. But Mittweg said he is not planning to switch from independents to Warner when other international output deals expire. "We want to stay with independents because we want to keep them alive," he said.