Theatre’s first film investment is controversial musical about Ipswich murders starring Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman.

The National Theatre has acquired rights to Rufus Norris’ controversial musical London Road, the feature adaptation of its own hit stage play also directed by Norris.

The acquisition marks the first time the theatre has picked up rights to a feature film. The film was also the first invested in at production level by the theatre.

The distribution deal was in place from the early stages of production and agreed between the NT, BBC Films and producers Cuba Pictures.

The film, written by Alecky Blythe, documents the events of 2006, when the town of Ipswich was shattered by the discovery of the bodies of five women.

The ensemble cast includes Olivia Colman and Tom Hardy. Release is due in 2015.

A Cuba Pictures/National Theatre production, London Road is produced by Dixie Linder, and executive produced by Nick Marston, Tally Garner and David Sabel. BBC Films, the BFI Film Fund, Arts Council England and LipSync financed the project. Protagonist Pictures are handling sales.

David Sabel, director of broadcast and digital at the National Theatre, told ScreenDaily: “This is a step in a different direction. This is a very different medium to NT Live [the theatre’s successful run of live performance broadcasts].

“This felt like an exciting opportunity and an exciting fit. A lot of the infrastructure of a distributor is now in place in my team, but it’s still early days.

“This is a first. There have been successful adaptations of NT plays - Amadeus, The Madness of King George, The History Boys, but we’ve never previously had a financial or creative stake in those films so this feels like an exciting first step.”

Sabel said it was too early to know how many screens the film would reach or the nature of the release.

“At the moment we don’t have our eye on other feature adaptations,” he added. “We’re taking it one step at a time but we are developing a strong relationship with audiences through NT Live.”