ShowtimeNetwork and Strand Releasing have signed a deal to jointly handle thetheatrical release of Michael Burke's drama The Mudge Boy, which isscheduled for release in April.

Thestory centres on a 14-year-old misfit's struggle to connect with his fatherfollowing the death of his mother. Emile Hirsch, whose credits include TheEmperor's Club and The Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys, stars alongwith Stanley Tucci.

JonGerrans, co-president of Strand Releasing, Peter Keramidas and David Stern ofShowtime, and Jeremy Barber and Howard Cohen of UTA negotiated the deal.

Thiswill be Showtime and Strand Releasing's second collaboration after ArthurPenn's acclaimed South African political drama Inside, and falls underthe auspices of the fledgling Showtime Independent Films initiative designed tosupport low budget films for theatrical release.

'StrandReleasing has been tracking this project since inception, from its short filmversion, Fishbelly White, to the development of the screenplay at theSundance Institute's Filmmaker's Lab," Strand co-president Marcus Hu said in astatement.

"Showtimeis pleased to be working with Strand again to bring this unique and wonderfulfilm to a theatrical audience," Showtime Networks president of entertainmentRobert Greenblatt added.

The Mudge Boy was nominated for the 2003 Sundance Grand Jury Prize andthe script was the American winner of the 2000 Sundance/NHK InternationalFilmmakers Award and also received First Prize for the 2001 Richard VagueGrant.