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Miramax picks up ‘Shipping’ oars

Col abandons Spacey pic for commercial shores

As Columbia Pictures prepares to abandon ship, Miramax Films is stepping up to supply the lifeboats to save “The Shipping News” from turnaround oblivion.

Just last March, Miramax had joined Columbia as a partner on “The Shipping News” by exercising an option it had with helmer Lasse Hallstrom from “The Cider House Rules,” a film that earned him a best director Oscar nomination.

But now, with the storyline of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Annie Proulx hardly guaranteed commercial fare, Col seems to be seeking surer things after an off year at the B.O.

“News” centers on the life of a man (to be played by this year’s best actor Oscar winner Kevin Spacey) who tries to piece his life together after a marriage to a woman who has run off with his two daughters and sold them into prostitution — hardly a down-the-middle, accessible movie.

While the terms of Miramax’s fiancial role are still being worked out, insiders familiar with the deal said the budget would likely be between $30 million and $33 million. Under the deal, Sony would recoup its investment in the pic’s production — one insider placed that sum at just below $5 million dollars.

Produced by Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan with Linda Goldstein and Leslie Halloran, “News” was to have been the second high-profile literary adaptation on which Miramax and Columbia would have worked together. The studios are also partners on Cormac McCarthy’s forthcoming “All the Pretty Horses,” a union fashioned via Miramax’s commitments with “Horses” director Billy Bob Thornton.

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