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Boffo Thailand B.O. for pricey local pic

'Suriyothai' preems to 2,000-strong aud

BANGKOK — Thailand’s most expensive pic, the $20 million historical epic “Suriyothai,” preemed Thursday in Bangkok in front of a 2,000-strong aud.

“Suriyothai,” the true story of a 16th century Thai queen who rides into battle against the Burmese to defend her husband’s kingdom, was scripted and helmed by Prince Chatri Chalerm Yukol and reportedly financed by Thailand’s Queen Sirikit.

The film, which boasts unparalleled access to palaces, battlegrounds and other locations, marks the Royal Family’s re-entry into the film industry. Their involvement began a little over 100 years ago when the French Lumiere brothers worked with King Rama V to produce “King of Siam’s Visit to Bern.”

At least one third of the Thai 2001 box office is expected to be come from local films, with “Suriyothai” the favorite to lead the field.

H’wood shuffle

Hollywood distributors are already juggling the dates of their new releases to avoid clashing with what is expected to be Thailand’s highest B.O. grosser with a local take estimated to be over $6.6 million.

New Line Cinema and Miramax are interested in the film after catching it at the Cannes Film Festival but no international sales were expected until after the domestic release.

The pic’s lavish opening took place at the SF Cinema City’s new nine-screen multiplex, which is part of its expansion to 33 screens, making it a formidable player in Thailand’s exhibition industry.

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