Magnet attracted to 'Red Cliff'

Will release two-parter as one film in U.S.

More Cannes coverage

CANNES -- Magnet is climbing the "Red Cliff." The Magnolia genre label has picked up U.S. rights to John Woo's two-part military epic, which it plans to release in the fall theatrically as one 21/2 hour film and on VOD and DVD in its full two parts.

E1 Entertainment has picked up Canadian rights and will release the film simultaneously north of the border.

The deal with Magnolia emerged after a protracted series of negotiations that saw five distributors still in the hunt last month.

"We (myself, the investors and our representatives) weighed all options and decided that Magnet is the best distributor for 'Red Cliff' in the U.S. Not only are we happy with the deal they offered, we have absolute confidence in them to give the film the proper attention that it deserves," said Terence Chang, Woo's producer and partner in Lion Rock Entertainment.

Woo's Chinese-language adventure drama stars Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhang Fengyi and tells the sprawling tale of the battle of Red Cliff, which saw the imperial army take on warlords throughout the Chinese empire in the period at the end of the Han Dynasty.

"Cliff" was made on a budget of $80 million and fshioned as a pan-Asian co-production involving Woo and Terence Chang's Lion Rock, China Film Group, Japan's Avex and South Korea's Showbox.

Woo's pic, which is playing in the Cannes Market represented by Summit Entertainment, consists of a pair of two-hour features, with the first becoming one of the highest boxoffice earners in China and in a slightly later release grossing over $50 million in Japan.

Magnet senior vp Tom Quinn noted that Woo's pic is "provocative, jaw-dropping and epic." The deal marks Magnolia's first to be announced in Cannes this year.

The pickup is likely to evoke another action movie set in period China -- Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- which was a $128 million U.S. breakout for Sony Pictures Classics eight years ago.

The film, Woo's first Chinese-language pic since the 1992 mob drama "Hard Boiled," was represented in the U.S. by CAA and attorney Howard Frumes repped.