Paramount Pictures Australia has acquired Australian rights to the low-budget drama The Final Winter, its first local pick-up since UIP split into Paramount and Universal at the beginning of the year.

The film is directed by Jane Forrest and Brian Andrews and written by Matt Nable, who also plays the lead role of Grub Henderson, a man coming to the end of his rugby career. The cast also includes John Jarratt, who played the killer at the heart of Wolf Creek , Nathaniel Dean, Raelee Hill and Matthew Johns. Nable and Johns are both known in local rugby circles.

While Paramount wanted to get involved in more local films, Australia managing director Mike Selwyn said today that hadn't expected a finished film to be its first pick up. He described The Final Winter as 'a little gem' and said the drama was played out against a very realistic portrait of the changes happening in rugby league during the 1980s and the tensions between loyalty to the club, personal aspirations and family life.

Paramount Australia expects to release the film in late August, at the end of the rugby league season.

The Sydney Film Festival has added a screening of the film on its closing day, June 24.

Selwyn believes that the introduction of a 40% rebate on the cost of making Australian films will enable films of a bigger scale to be made. 'It is not going to turn bad films into good films but it will be good for the industry,' he said.