Twentieth Century Fox hopes to decide by week’s end whether to move up the release date of its Sean Connery-Wesley Snipes detective drama “Rising Sun” to Easter from its planned summer slot.

Fox officials say they’d like to be able to lock in a release date by Friday after director Philip Kaufman gives the studio a realistic projected delivery date of his final cut.

Sources say Kaufman, like former Fox movie chief Joe Roth, has been pushing for a spring release so his film will not have to compete against summer pix like Universal’s “Jurassic Park,” Columbia’s “The Last Action Hero” and TriStar’s “Cliffhanger.”

Fox is more than willing to open the film in the less crowded late March/April period, but sources say there is some skepticism that Kaufman can deliver the movie in time for an adequate screening program and publicity campaign to be launched.

If Kaufman doesn’t deliver a wet print until late March, Fox would be forced to mount a fast-breaking publicity campaign to generate the kind of awareness it needs to open the movie properly in April.

Fox probably would not want to release the film too far into the month, since historically it’s not a hot moviegoing period.

Among the few major pix skedded for March are Paramount’s “Indecent Proposal, ” directed by Adrian Lyne, starring Robert Redford, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson; Disney’s “The Adventures of Huck Finn” and “Born Yesterday”; and New Line’s “Teenage Mutant Turtles 3.”

Fox production prexy Tom Jacobson said yesterday, “We’ve seen the movie (Kaufman’s first director’s cut was screened last week), it’s terrific and everything we expected it to be.

“But it’s a complicated, ambitious movie, so we’re having a lot of conversations about what is necessary to complete the film and when that would deliver it. Based on when it would be delivered, we’ll decide what’s the best release date for the movie to give it what it deserves as far as the correct kind of campaign.”

Meanwhile, Fox is trying to fill out its otherwise skimpy first-quarter schedule.

To that end, the studio has picked up American rights to the Movie Group’s sequel “Best of the Best II,” which it has slated for release March 5.

The Danny DeVito starrer “Jack the Bear,” which was in that slot, has been moved to April 2. The film, directed by Marshall Herskovitz, has DeVito playing a single father raising two young sons.

The only other releases Fox has coming between now and April are “The Vanishing” on Feb. 5; “Hear No Evil” (formerly titled “Danger Signs”), a thriller starring Marlee Matlin and directed by Robert Greenwald, in March; and “The Sand Lot” (formerly “Boys of Summer”) April 9.

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