'Tis the season to switch houses

The various strands that comprise the storyline of “The Holiday” did not spring fully formed from the pen of scribe Nancy Meyers but rather “percolated” to the surface over time.

“The kernel came to me,” Meyers says, “while researching a possible trans-Atlantic house swap on the Internet.

“I began thinking about what it would be like to swap environments with someone, to be in their bed, as it were, especially someone from abroad. While doing the research on the Web, I realized how widespread the house-switching phenomenon had become.”

At the same time Meyers had been ruminating about the fact that women often need “a breather” from their own lives, and the two female characters (played by Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz) evolved from there.

“When I first pitched the project it didn’t necessarily take place over Christmas,” Meyers recalls. But early on in the yearlong screenwriting process, Meyers began to associate the notion of how difficult that holiday is for so many people with the desire of her two characters to get away from their own romantic entanglements.

“Obviously, Christmas is not the main issue in the movie, but the tone of the writing works well with the seasonal theme,” Meyers says.

As for the upcoming release Dec. 8, Sony is banking on the film’s likely strength as counterprogramming, going up as it does against two male-oriented (and violent, to boot) actioners — Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” and Warner Bros.’ “Blood Diamond.”

Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal says the timing couldn’t be better, pointing out that there really aren’t any similar comedies on the boards for the entire month of December.

The following weekend, Paramount’s much-ballyhooed “Dreamgirls” dances onto screens and could siphon off some female auds.

Meyers is actively engaged in the marketing and promotion of the romantic comedy and will be traveling to Europe for various promo pushes. (Universal is handling the movie internationally.)

The marketing campaign focuses on the contrast between the two female leads’ very different lives but very similar circumstances.

After the pic is launched, Meyers and Diane English are co-producing the tentatively titled “All Access.” It’s about a family of kids in small-town America who wake up one day to find that their real dad is a famous rock star. Script is being penned by Jim Hertzfeld.

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