Luc Besson's Europa Corp has acquired a slew of territories, including North and South America and most of Europe, to Thai action title Ong-Bak - Muay Thai Warrior, starring hot new action hero Tony Jaa (aka Panom Yeerum).
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew for Thai studio Sahamongkol Film International, the film received a standing ovation at the recent Toronto International Film Festival where it screened in the Midnight Madness section. Hong Kong-based Golden Network Asia is handling sales.
According to Golden Network managing director Carrie Wong, Besson is preparing a slighter shorter version of the film for the US market and already has offers from several US distributors.
The film is billed as the first to reclaim Muay Thai (Thai boxing) as a martial art in its own right. "It goes back to the basics of what martial arts movies used to be - there are no wires and no CGI," says Sahamongkol executive vice president Gilbert Lim.
Golden Network has also sold the film to Medusa in the UK, A-Film in Benelux and Nobel & Partners in Scandinavia. In Asia it has gone to Gaga Communications for Japan, Showbox for Korea and Edko Films for Hong Kong and China, amongst other territories.
Besson territories include the rest of Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Ong-Bak was released in Thailand in February and has become the highest grossing local film of the year so far with a box office haul of US$6m. It is also the second highest grossing film overall behind The Matrix Reloaded.
Singapore's Shaw Renters will release the film at the end of October while Showbox and Edko are likely to release it next spring. Gaga is planning a 300-print release for summer 2004.