Terence Davies's acclaimed The House Of Mirth has been acquired for North American theatrical release by Sony Pictures Classics, in a last minute agreement with Showtime which had previously wanted to premiere the film on its cable channel (Screendaily, August 23).

Showtime co-produced the film - an adaptation of Edith's Wharton's novel which got a strong reception at last month's Edinburgh Film Festival - as part of a 12 picture production deal with the UK's Granada Film. In return it controls North American rights.

According to one source, an agreement was struck between Showtime and Sony Pictures Classics late on Wednesday night, after long and complicated negotiations. It is not yet clear when the film will be released, although it is expected to be before the end of the year.

Showtime had wanted to premiere The House Of Mirth on its cable channel in expectation of the film being a strong contender for the Emmys and Golden Globes. This, according to reports, was expected to generate positive publicity for Showtime - publicity the channel would find difficult to garner if The House Of Mirth debuted theatrically.

However, The House Of Mirth's performance at Edinburgh and invitations to the Toronto and New York film festivals are understood to have put pressure on Showtime to agree to a theatrical release. In addition, Showtime is said to have wanted to continue its co-production activity, but was aware that a hardline stance on a theatrical release for The House Of Mirth might discourage producers from bringing it other projects.

The House Of Mirth features Gillian Anderson, Eric Stoltz, Anthony LaPaglia, Laura Linney, Elizabeth McGovern and Dan Aykroyd.

The film's other backers include FilmFour, which has UK distribution, plus the Arts Councils of England and Scotland and the Glasgow Film Fund. Capitol Films is handling international sales. Olivia Stewart produced and Bob Last and Granada's Pippa Cross executive produced.