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Pix musical chairs

Par shuffles 3 summer films' release dates

In the latest round of last-minute changes to the summer schedule, Paramount has shifted the release dates of three pics.

Its John Travolta starrer “The General’s Daughter,” which until recently was set for June 11, has been pushed back one week to June 18.

At the same time, “South Park,” the animated feature based on the Comedy Central’s raunchy cable series has moved from June 18 to June 30.

Par execs said the moves were intended to distance the films from 20th Century Fox’s juggernaut “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” which bows May 19.

But exhibition sources speculated Par was also looking to move “The General’s Daughter” away from New Line’s highly anticipated “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” which is set for a June 11 debut.

Others affected

As is always the case in the crowded summer period, other studios are likely to react to the changes with shuffling of their own.

The “General’s Daughter” shift will probably prompt MGM to take “The Thomas Crown Affair” off June 18, since the two pics are targeted at a similar, older demographic. “Crown,” which has generated positive buzz among industry and press sources, is expected to move up to either June 11 or June 4.

Par is also changing the release date of MTV Films’ “The Wood” from Aug. 13 to July 16. That puts the Omar Epps-Taye Diggs starrer into one of the most crowded play periods of the summer, opening against Warner Bros.’ “Eyes Wide Shut,” New Line’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and Fox’s “Lake Placid.”

Studio execs are hoping “The Wood,” which has played extremely well to test auds, will distinguish itself from the pack. The film will go out in a relatively modest 1,000 theaters, in an effort to prolong its shelf life and find an audience.