Winchester Films, the London-based sales and financing house that has recently forged a host a partnerships with high-profile US producers, is finally breaking into the UK distribution with its own theatrical releasing operation.

Winchester has appointed former FilmFour distribution chief Mick Southworth to head the distribution arm, titled Winchester Film Distribution.

Along with big-budget Hollywood-style projects from the likes of Chuck Gordon, Wind Dancer Films, Debra Hill,Team Todd, the new outfit will have access to UK titles through producer Mark Thomas, who was appointed earlier this year as Winchester's point-person for UK production.

Thomas is expected to take a formal role at the distribution company, which aims to handle up to four broad releases a year, plus smaller titles and pick-ups from other sales companies.

Winchester chief Gary Smith still aims to sell projects to other UK distributors if they out-bid Winchester's estimates. "One thing is for sure, Chuck Gordon films are guaranteed a release in the UK," he said.

Winchester has long eyed a move into the UK distribution arena, now being populated by a sudden influx of new or beefed up distributors, but has waited until it was armed with sufficiently large-scale titles.

"Two markets have evolved," Southworth said. "There are top-end mainstream titles, the small percentage of films that are capable of reaching audiences. Everything else is secondary product that it is very difficult to justify a business on."