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‘Aviator’ skies to Miramax

Mini-major eyes awards-season push for Dec. film

“The Aviator” is back in Miramax’s hangar.

After much debate, and due to Warner Bros.’ tentpole-heavy fourth quarter, Miramax will handle domestic distribution on Martin Scorsese’s epic Howard Hughes biopic. Release is set for Dec. 17.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Miramax will retain their financial partnership agreement on the film, splitting costs and revenues 50/50 on the domestic release. Initial Entertainment Group’s Graham King produced the pic with Michael Mann’s Forward Pass. Initial, the majority financier of the $110 million film, also is handling international distribution rights.

Warner Bros. will retain theatrical distrib rights in Canada and will distribute the film domestically and in Canada on homevideo/DVD, with Miramax controlling all U.S. television rights.

Warner Bros. originally bought North American rights to the pic before production began in July. Since then, concerns about Warner’s heavy release schedule — with “Alexander,” “The Polar Express,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Ocean’s Twelve” all hitting theaters in the fourth quarter — prompted discussions about flipping domestic theatrical distribution responsibilities to Miramax.

Miramax also will distribute pic in the U.K., France, Italy and Germany, with Initial handling the remaining territories.

Pic gives Miramax a big event title at the end of 2004, a berth previously unfilled on its slate. Distrib is expected to launch a major awards-season push.

Although the media had a field day with the relationship between Scorsese and Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein during production of “Gangs of New York,” the studio got behind the release and pushed the film hard during awards season. Pic grossed $78 million domestically.

“Since our fourth quarter is already committed to four high-profile movies this year, we felt that it is in the best interests of ‘The Aviator’ to transfer its domestic release to our partners at Miramax,” said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. Pictures president of domestic distribution.

“Both studios have the highest respect for Martin Scorsese and want this exceptional movie to have all the attention and success it deserves. We believe we’ve found a way to do that with our new arrangement,” he added.

Drama follow Hughes’ life from the late 1920s though the ’40s, when Hughes was directing and producing Hollywood movies and test-flying innovative aircraft he designed and created.

Pic, penned by John Logan, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes. Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin and Jude Law also star. Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King and Charles Evans Jr. produced.

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