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Magnolia shift for shorts

Company to release pix in theaters, on DVD

NEW YORK — Magnolia is increasing its push to bring Oscar-nominated shorts to a wider audience, with plans to release nommed films to theaters in as many as 20 cities in 2007.

Last year, the distrib collected nominees in the live-action and animated categories for two separate releases and put them into theaters ahead of the Oscars. But instead of concentrating on a few big cities like L.A., San Francisco and Gotham, as it did last year, company is widening its target markets to 15-20.

Most of the theaters planned are outlets at the Landmark chain, Magnolia’s sister company; distrib does hope to eventually open in non-Landmark theaters and continue the run into the summer.

Company is partnering with British distrib Shorts Intl. for the release.

It will release two DVDs compilations on its Magnolia Home Entertainment label several months later. Films will also be available on its HDNet television network.

Acquisition for the nommed shorts is tricky: A distributor must essentially negotiate 10 separate contracts for the films — and do so quickly, since there’s no way of knowing ahead of the announcement which of the scores of films the Academy will choose.

But while the films each have “about as many agents and producers” as a typical feature, Magnolia chief acquisitions exec Tom Quinn said he’s confident Magnolia will be able to pick up rights to all them.

Marketing is also a challenge. Pics are usually a disparate mix from a number of countries and don’t lend themselves to one promotional tag. Magnolia’s campaign will emphasize how seeing shorts could help filmgoers in filling out their ballots for Oscar pools.

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