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Studios split hairs on distrib credits

Oscar tallies altered by shared productions

HOLLYWOOD — In the old days, the question was, “Who is the distributor?” Now the question is, “What exactly is a distributor?”

Given the proliferation of shared production costs, divided duties and split rights, it’s become an annual tradition for studios to wrangle over how many Oscar noms they have.

If domestic distribution is used as a gauge, the overseas distrib will counter, “We share domestic duties” and try to share credit for those noms as well. Major studios consider their arthouse wings as adjuncts or as separate entities, depending on their award tally needs.

The Academy clouds the issue with two words that it uses to categorize its nominees: “Distribution company.” The Acad touts Miramax, Initial Entertainment Group and Warner Bros. as “distribution company” for “The Aviator.” For “Vera Drake,” it’s Fine Line Features, Alain Sarde and U.K. Film Council in association with Inside Track Films.

But IEG and U.K. Film Council aren’t distribution companies — are they?

“The Passion of the Christ” is listed for Icon and Newmarket. DreamWorks and Paramount are sharing “Collateral.” But is Icon a distrib?

A few years ago, Buena Vista got three noms. But Disney touted it had earned 43 noms: The studio added its three to the 31 for Miramax, plus nine for “The Hours” (in which Miramax had a stake, though Paramount released it domestically).

Based on domestic distribs, Miramax got 11 for “Aviator,” seven for “Finding Neverland” and two for “The Chorus.” That’s a total of 20.

Warner Bros. wants to put “Aviator” in its tally as well. WB gets 16 for various films (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Polar Express,” etc.) and adds three for Warner Independent. Without “Aviator” it gets 19 noms, one short of Miramax’s tally. With “Aviator,” it hits a record-setting 30 noms.