EXCLUSIVE: In a move that positions it for expected future movie business growth in Asia, IM Global‘s Pan-Asian rights buying arm Apsara Distribution has closed an output deal with Buena Vista International. The multi-year and multiple-picture pact covers Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Despite its outsized population numbers, the region has traditionally accounted for a small percentage of a pre-sale business model for a variety of reasons, including a paucity of screens. That is changing quickly and will continue to do so for the next decade, and IM Global CEO Stuart Ford felt it was time to create a stronger distribution infrastructure that is more like a major studio.

“In the past we and others were very likely to sell to independent distributors in each territory, which to a degree lessened the upside,” Ford told me. “This move signifies our commitment to the region on pictures we finance, and on bigger third party films we acquire, so that we have an ownership opportunity in the region and potentially more upside by releasing through BVI. This is a populous region that is one of the fastest-growing economically and in box office.”

Recent titles Apsara has acquired for distribution across Asian markets include the Ron Howard-directed Formula One pic Rush, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starrer The Last Stand, the Sylvester Stallone-starrer Bullet To The Head, and recent Cannes titles like the Gerry Butler-starrer Motor City, the Mark Wahlberg-starrer Lone Survivor and the Liam Hemsworth-starrer Paranoia.