In a surprise Cannes move, sales companies Insiders and MadRiver Pictures are forming a joint venture called IMR International. The new entity will handle international sales across all Insiders and MadRiver films and aim to offer 12-16 films a year. The news was announced today by Insiders’ Vincent Maraval and MadRiver’s Marc Butan and Kim Fox. Fox will lead the JV’s operations out of Los Angeles.

MadRiver and Insiders will continue to exist and operate as separate independent production and financing companies. The deal was brokered by CAA. Fox also will continue to run the Annapurna International label and rep all Annapurna Pictures for international buyers.

“Vincent has been a fixture at the highest end of the foreign sales marketplace for the past 20 years, working on some of my personal favourite films such as The Wrestler, The Orphanage and City of God,” said MadRiver’s Butan. “Our tastes are fully compatible, and having the benefit of his expertise and relationships throughout Europe and the world will be invaluable for us.”

The move certainly gives the two companies, both of which are still relative newbies, more scale and weight in a challenging sales environment. Insiders was launched just before last year’s Cannes film festival, headed by Wild Bunch CCO Vincent Maraval and CAA consulting. In February, Chinese media company Bliss acquired a stake alongside Wild Bunch and Cine France. MadRiver was also launched last year. Its slate includes Liam Neeson starrer Felt and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z. Fox joined this year in February in between Sundance and Berlin.

The timing of the announcement, more than midway through the Cannes market, is a little surprising, though there is precedent for sales companies joining forces. Sierra Pictures and Affinity International with OddLot and Bold Films, for example, has proved to be a successful model for how these things can work out when they came together in 2011 to form Sierra/Affinity. Under well-respected Nick Meyer, it remains one of the top international sales companies working today. This February, eOne announced a strategic equity investment in Sierra Pictures.

Less happy was the short-lived marriage between Jeremy Thomas’ Hanway Films and Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams in the 2007 joint venture dreamachine, which lasted only three months before each company went back to operating separately and successfully.