Ending the most frenzied studio auction in years, the studio partners have snapped up rights to the S&M thriller Fifty Shades Of Grey and its two sequels by West London housewife and former TV executive E L James.

Focus will market and distribute the film in association with Universal. It is believed that Focus Features International will handle pre-sales which raises the possibility of a must-have title in Cannes, however sources had not confirmed this at time of writing.

Universal and Focus emerged victorious following two weeks of courtship by Hollywood heavyweights that saw offers fly in. At one point Sony was believed to have made a $5m bid.

Fifty Shades Of Grey charts the relationship between a college student and a billionaire in his late twenties. It began life as an online episodic before it was published as a single volume by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, with whom Focus has a relationship.

The two follow-ups Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed explore the couple’s evolving union.

The Fifty Shades Trilogy is a one-of-a-kind series of stories and we’re thrilled to be collaborating with E L James to bring them to the big screen,” Universal chairman and co-chairman Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley said in a statement.

“Like so many readers all over the globe, we’ve fallen in love with Fifty Shades Of Grey. It’s a special story and working with Focus, we hope to bring audiences a film they can enjoy as much as they loved the book.”

Focus CEO James Schamus added: “At its core, this is a romance of the most emotionally resonant, but delicate, order – and we look forward to working with our colleagues at Universal to transform E L James’ vision into a great film.”

Vintage Books will release new trade paperback editions of Fifty Shades Of Grey on Apr 3. Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed will be released in paperback on Apr 17.

The deal was brokered by Valerie Hoskins of VHA in London.