Internet tycoon to shake up UK films industry

Cannes Festival: Stanford plans to inject management and cash into industry - and show movies electronically

A WEALTHY British entrepreneur plans big changes to the British film industry, and to show movies on the Internet. Cliff Stanford, 44, founder of Internet server Demon, has set up funding and distribution companies to ensure more British films are shown in multiplexes.

Mr Stanford is investing much of the pounds 30m he got last year from the pounds 66m sale of Demon. He said in Cannes yesterday: "Many film-makers don't know how to do business plans, so we are bringing that expertise along with cash, a management structure, financial management and a level of PR. We will take shares in the films, up to 60 per cent."

Mr Stanford's new company, Redbus, has already funded Out of Depth, a south London gangster movie being shown in Cannes. He and his team will discuss their plans today in Cannes with Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Mr Stanford said: "The young producers of this film could not get funding. The National Lottery film people said it was too commercial. That is crazy. They should fund it, make a profit and put the profit into non-commercial films.

"But making one film at a time was never going to make a substantial difference to the British film industry. So we have also seed-funded a distribution company. I want to make sure that British films get a showing in the cinema.

"We could become a major player in British distribution. It will take a couple of years, but producers will be able to share in profits rather than sell the rights to their films at a low price. At the moment it's appalling, the low number of British films on at the cinema, or European films.

"I intend to handle a couple of films a month and at next year's Cannes I would expect to be a major player here. Yes, we want to make a profit but we also want to change the shape of British cinema."

At Demon Mr Stanford was first to show the Queen live on the Internet. He now intends to bring together the Internet and movies. He said: "I don't think it will be long before we can see movies of good quality and have pay-per-view for films on the Internet.

"It is effectively an online video recorder. In 18 months the quality will be good enough to watch films, and when you are able to use the Internet on your TV rather than on your personal computer, then the scope for downloading movies becomes enormous."

nBBC Films announced last night it was teaming up with the actor Robert Carlyle, the director Antonia Bird and the former Edinburgh Film Festival director Mark Cousins to develop and produce a number of feature films. In one of the first projects Mr Carlyle will play Benny Lynch, the Scottish boxing hero.

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