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A CHRISTMAS 'SPIRIT'

Lionsgate has moved up the nationwide release of its comic adaptation "The Spirit" — written and directed by Frank Miller — to Dec. 25. The film, based on the comic book series created by the late Will Eisner, was originally slated to open Jan. 16. Also slated to open Dec. 25 are Disney's "Bedtime Stories" and Fox 2000 Pictures' "Marley & Me."

HARRELSON, MORTON GET the MESSAGE

Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton have joined the cast of Oren Moverman's directorial debut, "The Messenger." Co-penned by Moverman and Alessandro Camon, "Messenger" begins shooting May 20 and is billed as a poignant, life-affirming road movie.

SENATOR FLIES WITH 'BIRDS'

Marco Weber's Senator Entertainment has picked up the rights to the Brad Kessler novel "Birds in Fall" from Julia Roberts' production shingle Red Om Films. Dennis Lee, who wrote and directed the Roberts starrer "Fireflies in the Garden" for Senator, is on board to direct from his own script.

POLLOCK LANDS PRIZE

Paramount Pictures International's Roger Pollock will pick up this year's Cinema Expo International Distributor of the Year Award during the June event held in the Netherlands. Pollock, executive vp distribution and operations, will receive the honor June 26 at the Amsterdam RAI International Exhibition & Congress Centre.
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