Mexican exhibition giant Cinepolis’ fledgling distribution arm outbid other key players to seize Mexican and Central American theatrical distribution rights to Colombian hitmaker Dago Garcia’s Mexican remake of his 2001 soccer comedy blockbuster “La Pena Maxima” (“Penalty”).

“Penalty” will make its market debut at Ventana Sur on Nov. 30 with Elba McAllister and Diana Dudek’s Cineplex USA handling worldwide rights.

“It deals with a universal theme,” said Garcia who also pointed out that soccer fever is on the rise as expectation builds for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Mexican version, a co-production with Cristina Palacio’s Bogota-based Alibi Films, stars one of Mexico’s biggest comedy stars, Adrian Uribe, and a nearly all-Mexican cast that includes Jose Sefami (“Amores Perros”), Tere Monroy (“Aqui Entre Nos”) and a Colombian cast led by Julieth Restrepo (“The Rose Seller”).

Netflix has pre-bought the worldwide OTT rights to the film. Talks are underway for its U.S. theatrical distribution.

Caracol TV, of which Garcia is VP of Production, is also a producer and holds the Colombian broadcasting TV rights.

Cinepolis releases the comedy March 29 on up to 800 screens in Mexico and simultaneously on a number of screens in Central America while leading exhib-distrib Cine Colombia bows the comedy a week earlier on March 22 in Colombia.

“We are very happy to distribute a solid comedy like ‘La Pena Maxima’ with an important star like Adrian Uribe, who is not just a household name in Mexico, but also in the U.S.,” said Cinepolis Distribution head Leonardo Cordero, adding: “We believe that the film will reach a big audience and will serve to kick off the World Cup frenzy.”

Uribe, who has been on a sold-out stand-up comedy tour in the U.S., plays soccer-mad Mariano who is willing to bet his home and jeopardize his relationship with his family and wife just to make sure Mexico qualifies for the World Cup finals.

Rodrigo Triana, who helmed 2006 Colombian hit “Soñar No Cuesta Nada” and a slew of TV series, has directed the comedy. This is his first Mexican film, which shot in both Mexico and Colombia.

“We are expecting this to be a big hit,” said McAllister.

Dago Garcia Prods, founded in 1995 by Garcia and Juan Carlos Vasquez, has been releasing at least one film a year, and has produced up to 32 films thus far, with three currently in post and two in pre-production. Its latest comedy, “El Paseo 4,” released in December 2016, broke Colombian box office records, with an excess of 1.7 million admissions. It was also an investor in foreign-language Oscar-nominated film “Embrace of the Serpent” by Ciro Guerra. Garcia co-penned “La Pena Maxima” with Luis Felipe Salamanca and Jose Luis Valera.

Argentina recently saw large box office earnings for its own soccer comedy “El Futbol o Yo” (“My Love or My Passion”), made by Disney co-owned production shingle Patagonik Film Group and the wildly popular Adrian Suar who plays a soccer fanatic who goes into rehab after losing his wife, his job and alienating his daughters.

Released by Buena Vista Int’l and directed by Marcos Carnevale (“Elsa y Fred”), “El Futbol o Yo” became the second-highest grossing Argentine movie of 2017, capturing 1.1 million admissions and earning about $6 million. Film Sharks Int’l, which has a market screening for the movie at Ventana Sur, has reported brisk international sales. Remake rights to “El Futbol o Yo” are being shopped around.