Fox Searchlight has taken US rights from River Road Entertainment to Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life but the film won’t be a player in this year’s awards season.

Searchlight already has a packed awards roster for 2010 with Black Swan, Never Let Me Go, 127 Hours and Conviction and will release the long awaited drama next year.

The company acquired rights after River Road founder Bill Pohlad’s Apparition exited the distribution business this week and laid off its remaining 11 employees.

Searchlight’s executive vice-president of worldwide acquisitions Tony Safford and senior vice-president of business affairs Megan O’Brien brokered the deal with River Road president Mitch Horwits.

The Tree Of Life is the story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s and chronicles the efforts of the eldest son, played by Sean Penn, as he tries to make peace with his father (Brad Pitt). Pohlad produced with Sarah Green, Pitt, Dede Gardner, and Grant Hill. 

“Terrence Malick has crafted a deeply moving, keenly observed and magisterial film,” Searchlight presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula said. “Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and the entire cast’s performances are simply amazing. This is a signature film by a signature film-maker and we are proud to be releasing it.”