Inside Move: New distrib saddles ‘Horses’

Col, M'max still share costs, worldwide B.O.

Columbia Pictures is handing over the reins for domestic distribution and marketing on “All the Pretty Horses” to Miramax Films.

The two studios continue to share production costs and will still split the worldwide B.O. proceeds equally.

“Our financial agreement remains the same,” said Mark Gill, West Coast prexy for Miramax, adding, “We believe, as does Sony, that this is a really strong movie, both artistically and commercially.

The agreement seems a move targeted at relieving a holiday crush at Sony Pictures Entertainment while at the same time getting the Billy Bob Thornton-helmed “Horses” trimmed down from what was initially more than three hours long to a more manageable size.

Sony is facing a sizable raft of pictures for release this November and December. Trying to juggle “Horses” along with “Charlie’s Angels” (Nov. 3), Phoenix Pictures’ “The Sixth Day” (Nov. 17), “The Vertical Limit” (Dec. 8) and “Finding Forester” (Christmas) seemed unwise, insiders said. Columbia may also release “The Tailor of Panama” in late December.

Miramax, by contrast, is releasing only “Dracula 2000” via its Dimension banner and has plans for a limited release of “Chocolat.”

The terms of the deal also call for Miramax to first whittle down “Horses” print to 2 hours and 15 minutes. (Insiders say it’s currently at 2 hours and 30 minutes, and will hit the contractually agreed upon run time.)

The transfer to Miramax should go a long way to assuaging Thornton, who publicly blasted Columbia toppers for their less-than-enthusiastic reception of his initial four-hour cut.

“Why does a major studio buy this book if all they’re going to want in the end is a damn hour-and-a half chase movie?” asked Thornton rhetorically in a recent Premiere magazine interview.

Miramax, which will release “Horses” from the corral on Christmas Day with a healthy 1,800 prints, also agreed to reconfigure some of the film’s racier material to qualify for a PG-13 rating in the hopes of a bigger, all-ages B.O.

According to one insider, the agreement calls for roughly $25 million in promotion and marketing, a figure largely unchanged from when Sony was marketing the picture.

What has changed, however, is that Miramax would handle any potential Oscar push. With a well-oiled publicity and marketing machine specializing in taking positive notices and turning them into cases of Oscars, (viz. “The Cider House Rules,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “The English Patient”), Weinstein & Co. seem somewhat better qualified to handle the highbrow “Horses.”