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Weinsteins loosen Thai film’s rights

'Ong bak 2' overseas rights back on table

HONG KONG — Leading Thai distrib Sahamongkolfilm will reopen international sales to big-budget actioner “Ong bak 2” a year after the Weinstein Co. took the rights off the table.

In a dramatic and pricey swoop valued at just north of $10 million, TWC grabbed world rights outside Asia and the U.K. to “Ong bak 2” in March 2006.

Since then the company has reconsidered its move and spent many months renegotiating terms of the deal. Agreement was finally hammered out in Bangkok earlier this month, when TWC co-prexy Harvey Weinstein swung through Thailand as part of a roadshow raising coin for his Asian movie fund.

New terms see TWC retain the North American license but hand back rights in other territories in time for Sahamongkolfilm Intl. to restart sales at Cannes.

“We have come up with a very good deal for North America with TWC and now have every reason to think that our overall numbers will be better. The difference is that we have to go back to territory-by-territory sales,” said Sahamongkolfilm Intl. exec VP Gilbert Lim.

Neither company offered an explanation for TWC’s change of heart, but sources close to the deal point to softening of world DVD markets and the fact that “Ong bak 2” is chronologically not a sequel. Where the first film was a contempo actioner, the second is a period piece.

Pic, which is shooting, stars and is helmed by Tony Jaa (“Ong bak”), who also starred in “Tom yum goong,” which TWC distribbed last year as “The Protector.”

With a budget in the low-eight figures, “Ong bak 2” sets Jaa as a young man on a journey that teaches him both the skills and inner meaning of martial arts.

First “Ong bak” was released in the U.S. by Magnolia Pictures.

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