EXCLUSIVE: Riding high on the success of its inaugural releases, FilmDistrict has picked up US rights from Nu Image/Millennium Films to Gabriele Muccino’s rom-com Playing The Field, starring Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel.

Shooting is underway in Louisiana now for an expected spring 2012 release. Butler plays a broke former footballer and playboy who moves back to Virginia to reconnect with his estranged wife and neglected son. He ends up coaching his son’s football team as a host of adoring soccer mums and desperate housewives look on. Uma Thurman, Judy Greer, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones round out the cast.

Butler and Alan Siegel are producing in association with Kevin Misher, Jonathan Mostow, Heidi Jo Markel and John Thompson from a screenplay by Robbie Fox. Nu Image/Millennium Films’ Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short and Avi Lerner serve as executive producers.

“This is as good an independent movie as you can find,” CEO Peter Schlessel said. “It was an easy yes and I don’t say yes to a lot of things. This movie is the perfect example of how we will continue to evolve from an acquisitions point of view as we scour the market for widely appealing commercial product.”

“We are very pleased to have closed this deal with Peter Schlessel and FilmDistrict for Playing The Field and hope it will be the first of many to come,” Nu Image/Millennium Films co-chairman Avi Lerner said. “I am confident they will do a great job bringing this picture to market.”

FilmDistrict launched last year under the auspices of Graham King and Tim Headington’s GK Films in association with longtime Sony executive Schlessel. Bob Berney is head of theatrical distribution and Schlessel’s former Sony colleague Adrian Alperovich arrived last October as president of acquisitions and operations shortly after the company launch.

The first two releases – James Wan’s horror film Insidious and Sean McNamara’s inspirational true-life drama Soul Surfer – opened recently and have prospered, together grossing close to $90m in the US.

“Our first two films were really well received by the public and that’s what we’re looking for,” Schlessel said. “When you have some track record, that helps. The hope is that our partners will trust that if we’re distributing something, foreign buyers will give it a harder look.”

The company’s upcoming 2011 releases include Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cannes competition entry Drive starring Ryan Gosling, horror story Don’t’ Be Afraid Of The Dark produced by Guillermo del Toro and The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp. Sci-fi release Lockout with Guy Pearce is set to open in 2012.

Muccino previously directed The Pursuit Of Happyness and Seven Pounds both starring Will Smith.