Columbia TriStar FilmDistributors International (CTFDI), which will soon see if its investment inacquiring international rights to blockbuster Terminator 3: Rise Of TheMachines paid off, has invested inanother potential hit acquisition, taking rights in most internationalterritories to Artisan Pictures and Marvel Studios' The Punisher.

The film, which was sold toCTFDI by Summit Entertainment, will be released by Artisan in the US. It starsThomas Jane and John Travolta and is being directed by Jonathan Hensleigh whosescreenwriting credits include Armageddon, Jumanji and Die Hard: With AVengeance.

Marvel Studios CEO Avi Aradis producing the film alongside Gale Anne Hurd, who also produced The Hulk, one of three Marvel Comics character movies to hitthe screen this year. Daredeviland X2: X-Men United were theother two.

Jane plays Frank Castle, aformer special forces operative for the FBI whose family is executed as arepercussion from his final undercover assignment and who sets out to punishthe murderer Howard Saint. Travolta plays Saint, a man involved in the criminalunderworld who has managed to conceal his violent beginnings and become aparagon of society until a darker, vengeful side emerges after his son isbrutally slain.

The Punisher is the first film to emerge from the Artisan/Marveljoint venture struck between Artisan CEO Amir Malin and Arad to develop,produce and distribute Marvel character-based programming in all media withprofits generated from each project shared equally after distribution fees areincurred.

"There is already greatbuzz building on this title and we believe The Punisher will be a terrific addition to our 2004international slate," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman, Sony PicturesEntertainment, in a statement.

The acquisition of ThePunisher also continues Columbia's relationshipwith Marvel which bloomed with Spider-Man last year but recently went sour whenMarvel filed a lawsuit against Sony Pictures claiming that Sony attempted todivorce the Marvel name from the Spider-Man property in its marketing.

"Sony has an incredibleinternational team that we have had the pleasure of working with. I know thatthey'll do a great job with The Punisher," said Marvel's Arad in the statement.

Patrick Wachsberger and BobHayward negotiated the deal on behalf of Summit.