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Tough treading for 'Titus'

“Titus,” the highly anticipated feature debut of Broadway director Julie Taymor (“The Lion King”), is getting mixed notices from acquisitions execs following its screenings last week.

The movie, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus,” stars Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. Pic, which cost around $20 million to make, was co-financed by Paul Allen’s Clear Blue Sky Prods., NDF Intl. and Overseas FilmGroup, which is handling international sales.

While execs had high praise for the pic’s production design, costumes and cinematography, many balked at its length (over two and a half hours), its challenging subject matter and its sustained gore.

On the other hand, “Titus” is believed to have a good chance of gaining several Oscar nominations in a year generally bereft of Oscar-caliber pics. “It’s long and a tough sell, but it’s very stylish,” one exec said.

There was speculation Friday that Allen would try and bring the pic to DreamWorks, in which the billionaire Microsoft co-founder has a substantial ownership stake. DreamWorks partner Steven Spielberg is understood to have seen “Titus” and expressed his enthusiasm for Taymor’s work. ICM is handling the pic’s domestic distribution.

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