Universal Pictures has acquired US distribution rights to Christophe Gans' French blockbuster The Brotherhood Of The Wolf (Le Pacte Des Loups) and will release it under its specialised Universal Focus label in late 2001. The $25m film was acquired from StudiCanal, Universal's sister company in Vivendi, and marks the first picture deal concluded between the two companies since Vivendi bought Universal last year.

The film was released in France on Jan 31 this year and grossed a record $1.5m on its opening day. To date it has grossed over $35m. Set in 1765 in the reign of Louis XV, it is based on a well-known French legend about a mysterious creature which lays waste to the countryside killing scores of women and children. Desperate to end the terror, the king sends a renowned scientist and his blood brother to bring the beast down.

The cast is headed by Samuel Le Bihan (Venus Beauty Institute, Jet Set), US martial arts star Mark Dacascos (who starred in Crying Freeman for Gans), Italian star Monica Bellucci (Malena) and Vincent Cassel (La Haine, Crimson Rivers). Producers are Richard Grandpierre and Samuel Hadida; production companies were StudioCanal, Davis Films and TF1 Films Production.

"It's a rare pleasure to find a film that has the intense adventure, mystery and scope of this truly remarkable motion picture, and we believe it will be readily embraced by American audiences," said Mark Kristol, executive vice president at Universal, in a statement.