Magnet acquires rights to 'Chocolate'

Martial arts action film to hit theaters next year

NEW YORK -- Magnolia Pictures' genre arm Magnet is taking a bite out of "Chocolate."

The Wagner/Cuban Co. distributor has acquired North American rights to the martial arts actioner from director Prachya Pinkaew and leading Thai producer Sahamongkolfilm International, the team behind the hit "Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior."

"Chocolate" tells the story of an autistic girl (Jeeja Vismistananda) who learns martial arts to track down thugs that owe her ailing mother money. After its world premiere this month in the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness section, the film played to enthusiastic crowds at Austin's Fantastic Fest last weekend.

The Weinstein Co. originally picked up North American rights to the film, but handed them back to Sahamongkolfilm along with its rights to the "Ong Bak 2" sequel last year. The original film was the third highest grosser in Magnolia's history.

"Magnet has had a long tradition of debuting action stars like Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong, David Belle, Marko Zaror, and now we're fortunate enough to launch our first female action star: Jeeja Vismistananda," said Magnolia senior vp Tom Quinn, who negotiated the deal with Sahamongkolfilm's Gilbert Lim. He noted that the young actress trained five years for the film's martial arts scenes.

"Chocolate" will hit theaters next year.