How far are we away from corporate sponsorship of the movie business?

Well, it already exists to some extent in the form of product placement and even the occasional equity stakes from conglomerates. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Burger King and FedEx are a few that have invested.

Enter Glenda, a two-person shop run out of New York by producers Galt Niederhoffer and Danielle Soto-Taplin, who have created what they think will be the hottest new format for hip, creative expression.

The pair wrote, directed and produced a 90-second spot pilot about a female action hero named Rocket Jones, played by Dominique Swain. She walks the streets and flits around the city wearing nothing but Nike wear.

The spot was financed by Nike Corp. and, if approved, will lead to 30 more spots of the same length.

The mini-pics (or maxi ads) aren’t exactly commercials, says Niederhoffer. And they aren’t exactly mini-films either. They may be shown on VH-1 or MTV in between videos. Or they might morph into commercial form. Anything is possible.

“It defies classification,” Niederhoffer says. “It’s what happens when creative forces and practicality intersect in this happy new genre.”

In this age of high-tech, short-attention-span sensibility, such “shorts” might be the future. But financed by corporations, they may cause a small firestorm.

USA Networks just canceled a TV movie about two drug-tampering deaths after Johnson & Johnson, a major advertiser on the web, complained it was inappropriate.

How far away, then, is the time when a corporation starts deciding which scenes to chop out of the pic?

Sonia Burda, a former ICM agent who married Glenda to Nike, says corporate sponsorship of films is a natural evolution.

Niederhoffer, ever the indie producer, is resigned to finding her money any way she can. She has faith, however, that the art won’t be modified by the corporate environment.

“We’ve decided to stop pretending that independent films are not financed by major corporations,” Niederhoffer proclaims. “The indie film landscape is extremely barren. This is a way to be extremely creative with a wide new source of financing.”

ARTISAN ENTERTAINMENT can’t keep its “Blair Witchy” toes out of the gossip fire.

The reclusive indie was the prime subject this week of rampant rumors that it was being bought outright for $450 million by a German outfit called In Motion. The reports claimed Artisan would get $150 million cash with $300 million in assumed debt.

Not so fast, Artisan says. In a tersely worded statement, the indie simply said: “We are in discussions with In Motion with respect to a German tax shelter-based co-production agreement.”

The statement goes on to explain why Artisan, given its library, is one of 10 companies that can fully distribute in the U.S, which includes all those ancillary streams. Hence, the interest.

The agreement would potentially provide Artisan domestic rights to films co-produced with In Motion, which would ultimately earn itself a nifty tax shelter.

SUBWAY SUPER BOWL? As football season is rapidly building to a playoff froth, most lively Gotham notion floating has been a potential inter-city Super Bowl, kissing cousin to the recent Subway Series that baseball enjoyed. The New York Jets are 9-4. The New York Giants are 9-4. Both are in line to advance to football’s virtuoso game. Would such a scenario drive TV viewers away as the baseball matchup did?

“We prefer to have a little larger geographic area represented,” says Sean McManus, CBS Sports president. “I think the World Series showed there was an awful lot of New York interested, but the national interest was much less. You’d want teams from another part of the country.”

NICE TO SEE NEW LINE CINEMA branching out. The studio usually opts for either brainless comedies (that often gross $100 million-plus) or urban films that are cheap to produce and yield a decent return.

Now comes “Thirteen Days,” a fascinating historical drama about the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Toplining Kevin Costner (sporting an awkward Boston accent), the film delivers simply through its solid story, pacing and performances.

New Line production chairman Michael De Luca was said to have stuck with this project — when others were dismissing it — because he simply liked the script. Ted Turner also had a hand in the greenlight. Let’s hope the studio is still firmly behind the film, despite delaying its wide release from Christmas to January.

SONY PICTURES CLASSICS has nabbed Karate Kid Tiger Schulmann to give live karate demonstrations in between shows of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” at the Loews E-Walk in Times Square when it opens later in December.

Cute promotional idea, but there may just be a hidden dragon lurking in there too. Schulmann, splashed on the pages of the New York tabloids, just received a $195,000 fine and been ordered by a judge to refund $36,000 more to unhappy customers of his Karate Centers.

Sony Classics wants “Crouching Tiger” to be a breakout picture for the company. Hope that will mean just at the box office.

WHEN EXECS AT HART/SHARP ENTERTAINMENT bragged to friends and colleagues that Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein called them to whine about losing “You Can Count On Me,” it sounded like an amusing anecdote. Alas, it wasn’t.

A Weinstein press rep complained that the item was incorrect and that people were simply using Harvey’s name to look good. Returning to Hart/Sharp, they ultimately admitted that Harvey did not actually call, but a junior person did — to discuss price. Harvey never actually saw the film because he had a viral infection in New York, which kept him out of Sundance. Though his acquisitions team disregarded it, Harvey never had the pleasure. The indie king’s name is often invoked to bump up the price of a film. Now, it seems as if it was being used to give the pic recognition. Either way, sorry Harvey.

(Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report.)

If you have information or just gripes, please contact Dan Cox at dcox@cahners.com.

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