In a sign that US micro-distributors are starting to fill the acquisitions void left by the studio specialist divisions as they gravitate to more commercial higher-budgeted fare, two emergent releasing boutiques have separately added two long-overlooked festival favourites to their forthcoming slates.

Marking its third acquisition over the past six weeks, Lot 47 Films has picked up all North American rights to Christopher Livingston's odd couple comedy Hit & Runway. At the same time, Merchant Ivory Productions has acquired Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher for limited theatrical release in major US cities, nearly a year after her Glasgow-set debut made critical waves at the Cannes Film Festival.

An early 2001 release is planned for Hit & Runway, which won best screenplay awards at last year's Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the 2000 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen and at Outfest/Los Angeles. The film pairs a gay Jewish playwright with the bruising son of an Italian restaurant-owning family who partner out of necessity on writing an original screenplay for a macho action superstar. Michael Parducci (ABC-TV's Wonderland), Peter Jacobson, Judy Prescott and Kerr Smith (Dawson's Creek) star in Hit & Runway.

Lot 47, which established itself with the release of Tim Roth's The War Zone, is run by president Jeff Lipsky, an art-house veteran most recently with Samuel Goldwyn Films. His other two recent acquisitions have been Aiyana Elliott's documentary feature The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack and Tonie Marshall's Venus Beauty Institute (Venus Beaute), the sleeper hit of the French box office last year and winner of four Cesars including best picture.

Merchant Ivory's pick-up of Ratcatcher comes in the same week that Ramsay was named newcomer of the year on Sunday by the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) and coincides with its US premiere as part of the prestigious New Directors/New Films showcase in New York. Merchant Ivory's other occasional domestic acquisitions have included Theo Angelopolous' Palme d'Or-winning Eternity And A Day.