EXCLUSIVE: Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures has won U.S. rights to Hostiles, the Western from writer-director Scott Cooper that stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Ben Foster and Adam Beach. Since its premiere in Telluride and Toronto, the film was expected to put Christian Bale squarely into the Oscar race in the Best Actor category, if a distributor and release date could be put in place in time. Allen’s ESMP will put the film in limited release in December, and then will open it wide in January. ESMP made the deal with producer Ken Kao’s Waypoint Entertainment, which financed and which has next scheduled Hostiles to open the Rome Film Festival at the end of October.

Set in 1892, Hostiles tells the story of a soon to retire U.S. Army Captain (Bale), who after stern resistance, reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Studi) and his family back to tribal lands. Making the harrowing and perilous journey from New Mexico to Montana, the former rivals encounter a young widow (Pike) whose family was massacred. Together, they must join forces to overcome the punishing landscape, hostile Comanche warriors, and vicious outliers that they encounter along the way. Hostiles is evocative of classic Westerns like The Searchers, exploring themes of violence, prejudice, and redemption. The film is produced by Cooper, Kao and John Lesher, and executive produced by Will Weiske. Co-producers include Sean Murphy, Josh Rosenbaum, Jennifer Semler, and Alex Walton.

This deal took time to coalesce — the film reportedly carries a budget in the $50 million range, and word is this deal comes with a P&A commitment in the $15 million range. It adds to a statement-making Toronto Film Festival for Allen. There, he also acquired the Keanu Reeves-starrer Replicas and Chappaquiddick, the John Curran-directed film that drew strong notices for Jason Clarke in the role of Senator Ted Kennedy, who drove his car off the bridge and drowned campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechnie, and didn’t report the incident for nine hours. The film, which fills in the gaps of an unimaginable breach of judgement that killed Kennedy’s White House chances, is also being launched in awards season.

Hostiles reunites Cooper with Bale, who turned in a strong performance in the 2013 drama Out of the Furnace. Bale won an Oscar for The Fighter and Pike was previously nominated for Gone Girl.

ESMP, which got into the releasing game by acquiring the distributor Freestyle, had its first breakout hit this summer with the Mandy Moore-starrer 47 Meters Down. The company has an output deal with Netflix (also said to be squarely in the mix as it was on numerous Toronto films) and continues to assembles a slate of films.

Allen calles Hostiles “an incredibly powerful and entertaining film, a masterpiece. Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike deliver flawless performances in this excellent movie.

Said Kao: “Although Hostiles is set in 1892, this story of transformation and redemption feels completely relevant today. We are so excited that Entertainment Studios shares our passion for the film’s social significance.”

Said Lesher; “Scott Cooper is steeped in the time frame Hostiles portrays, and that gave him a thorough understanding of the complex characters Christian Bale, Wes Studi and Rosamund Pike play in the film. Byron Allen and the Entertainment Studios team connected deeply to the film, so we know we’re in good hands.”

The deal was negotiated by ESMP Head of Acquisitions Chris Charalambous, WME Global Finance & Distribution, and the CAA’s Film Finance & Sales Group.