Lions Gate Films has picked up North American rights from Merchant Ivory Productions to James Ivory's The Golden Bowl which was orginally bought at Cannes 1999 by Miramax Films. Miramax announced that the rights had reverted back to Merchant Ivory this week as the two had disagreed over the final cut. Ivory had final cut in his contract, while Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein was asking for further cuts to the 134 minute running time. The film was financed by TF1 International.

In a thinly veiled statement, both producer Ismail Merchant and Ivory decried Miramax's failure to respect Ivory's final cut. "Jim, Ruth and I are very happy that The Golden Bowl is to be released theatrically in the United States and Canada by Lions Gate. We appreciate the innovative, imaginative and energetic approach of Mark Urman, Tom Ortenberg and their team; they will endorse Merchant Ivory's belief that the creative integrity of independent filmmakers must be respected and maintained," said Merchant. "We feel confident that Lions Gate will succeed in bringing our film to a wide American audience who also shares this philosophy as we have proved by our 40 years of successful filmmaking," added Ivory.

Weinstein is known to have disliked the film since it was screened in competition at Cannes this year to lukewarm reviews but he was unable to have a say in its festival positioning since it only had North American and UK rights. Ironically it was Lions Gate who picked up US distribution rights to Miramax's Dogma - which screened out of competition at Cannes 1999 - when Miramax parent company The Walt Disney Co refused to distribute it.

The Golden Bowl deal was negotiated by Lions Gate co-presidents Urman and Ortenberg and their associate Peter Block of Trimark Pictures with Richard Hawley of Merchant Ivory.

However, although Miramax had scheduled a release date later this year to qualify for awards consideration, Lions Gate will begin a platform release of the movie in spring 2001. "We are opting to release the film next spring as it is deserving of extreme care and nurturing, and to attempt to rush it into the marketplace this Fall would not allow us to sufficiently capitalise on its award potential, of which it is so richly deserving," said Ortenberg in a statement.

Adapted from Henry James' novel by longtime Merchant Ivory collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, The Golden Bowl stars Uma Thurman as an American woman in Europe in the last century whose passion for a penniless prince (Jeremy Northam) is thwarted when he marries the daughter (Kate Beckinsale) of a wealthy American businessman (Nick Nolte). Anjelica Huston and James Fox also star.