Lions Gate Entertainment has acquired all North American rights to Takashi Shimizu's Japanese horror hit The Grudge (Ju-On).

The announcement was made yesterday (Mar 17) by Peter Block, president of home entertainment, acquisitions and new media. A theatrical release date will be set later.

Lions Gate has also picked up Ju-On and Ju-On 2, Shimizu's two straight-to-video projects that inspired the feature film. Block said a video release of both titles would most likely coincide with the North American DVD release of The Grudge.

"We're big fans of the horror genre and this was one of those films that we were most looking forward to seeing at MIFED last year," Block told "It's creepy, scary and has all the elements with a wonderful look and tremendous sound design. Despite the fact that it's not in the English language it works just as well."

The story centres on a supernatural curse that was born of a grudge and passes from victim to victim like a disease. In its first seven weeks in Japanese theatres it has taken $1.2m (Y150m).

Lions Gate acquired the rights from sales agent Horizon Entertainment, whose president Rob Straight said: "This continues the success of selling Japanese-language films to major foreign distributors."

Straight added he was "keenly anticipating" The Grudge 2, which he said should be ready in time for Cannes.

In an unrelated deal, Sam Raimi's genre label Ghost House Pictures recently picked up remake rights with Shimizu himself set to direct the US version.