Magnolia Pictures in North America, Optimum in the UK and MadmanEntertainment in Australia and New Zealand have jointly bought allEnglish-language rights to Hong Kong director Johnny To's action thriller Exiled.

The distributors recently teamed up to buy the South Korean boxoffice smash The Host and Magnolia plans to release in North American in 2007.

Magnolia's acquisitions head Tom Quinn, acquisitionsmanager Ben Stambler and business affairs chief Jason Janego negotiated thedeal with Media Asia's Jeffrey Chan and Fred Tsui.

Meanwhile buyers were remaining optimistic ahead of last night'sworld premiere of El Cantante as the search for the festival's first high-profile acquisitioncontinued.

Despite a flurry of activity from the Weinsteins at the weekendand Newmarket's purchase of DOAP on Monday, domestic deals have been thin on the ground.

Several pictures were in play last night, namely the New Zealandgenre picture Black Sheep, road movie Bonneville starring Jessica Lange, Joan Allen and Kathy Bates, andPetra Epperlein and Michael Tucker's documentary The Prisoner Or: How IPlanned To Kill Tony Blair.

Meanwhile negotiations with a major studio continued on MarkPalansky's fantasy drama Penelope, which stars Christina Ricci and James McAvoy..

Also set to screen last night was the romantic comedy GriffinAnd Phoenix starringAmanda Peet and Dermot Mulroney.

Tarsem Singh's drama The Fall continues to divide buyer opinion, as it has done with thecritics, while Spanish horror tale Abandoned has drawn strong interest in somecircles.

Severalacquisitions executives who spoke to Screen said they had been disappointed bythe pictures on offer and would now scour the screening programme for undiscoveredgems.