Denmark's Zentropa has signed a deal with Italy's Istituto Luce and Rome-based producer Leo Pescarolo of Imago Film to co-develop, finance and distribute a package of five titles including Lars Von Trier's next two films and three English-language films by other Danish directors.

Zentropa is also in talks with Fine Line and several European entities to co-finance the slate. Pescarolo said the deal will involve collaboration on the films from the earliest stages, including script development and casting. "It is also one of the few projects of its kind to be financed by the US before the film actually happens," Pescarolo said.

The Zentropa package features sci-fi picture Last Born, to be directed by Denmark's Niels Arden, Moments Of Clarity, written by newcomer Mikael Colville Andersen, and an adaptation of Jostein Gaarder's Through A Glass Darkly from hot Danish director Susanne Bier.

Von Trier is currently working on his next title, though Pescarolo said the title and subject have not yet been revealed.

Through its deal with Zentropa, Istituto Luce, which holds Italian distribution rights to Von Trier's Cannes Palme d'Or winner Dancer In The Dark, also acquires local distribution rights to the five-film package. Since last year, the Italian state distributor also has its own five-film output deal with Pescarolo, involving co-production and distribution for Dancer In The Dark, Marleen Gorris' The Luzhin Defence, and three upcoming titles.

Zentropa is also imminently expected to sign a separate development and financing deal with Pescarolo for three titles from its "Zentropa Zhillers" series of adult horror movies, which are being co-financed by USA Films and UK financing outfit Visionview.

"It is incredible to think that there is so much film-making talent in a country that is as small as Denmark," the veteran producer said. "One of the reasons I like to work with the Danish is that they are so much more flexible than the Italians and others," he explained.

Pescarolo has also recently boarded The Long Finish, a thriller adapted from a popular novel by UK author Michael Dibdin which is set in the Italian wine-country. Jim Reeve's Web Film Financing holds world rights except for Italy. The film, which is being written by John Howlett, is planned as a UK, German and Italian co-production. It is due to start shooting in September 2001.