EXCLUSIVE:  Amazon Studios is close to a deal to acquire North American rights to Whit Stillman’s period comedy Love & Friendship starring Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry and Emma Greenwell. The film reunites Beckinsale and Sevigny with Stillman for the first time since 1998 cult classic The Last Days Of Disco. The film will be released theatrically next year, although no third party partner distributor has been decided on just yet. 

Set in the 1790s, Love & Friendship centers on beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon, who has come to the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica. It is adapted from a Jane Austen short story.

Love & Friendship continues Stillman’s ongoing relationship with Amazon Studios after the premiere of his television pilot The Cosmopolitans on Jeff Bezos’ online retail giant’s Prime Instant Video service last year. The deal was negotiated by John Sloss of Sloss Eckhouse LawCo LLP on behalf of the filmmakers. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales.

Amazon Studios, under Ted Hope, is ramping up its film activities. It has confirmed that Spike Lee’s Chi-raq will be its first original movie. That film features Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Jennifer Hudson, D.B. Sweeney, Harry Lennix, Steve Harris, Angela Basset with John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. Teyonah Parris will play the lead role. Written by Lee and Kevin Willmott, (C.S.A: Confederate States Of America), Chi-Raq looks at inner city violence in Chicago.

Deadline also broke the news that Amazon had made its first feature acquisition with the Kevin Spacey-Michael Shannon-starrer Elvis & Nixon, directed by Liza Johnson. Bleecker Street is handling the theatrical release on that one.

Stillman is repped by UTA. Reps for both Amazon and Protagonist were unavailable for comment.