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Ever since word got out that Barbra Streisand was going to direct Nick Nolte and star in Pat Conroy's beloved book "The Prince of Tides," Hollywood has been unusually curious about how the pairing would turn out. Well, results from the first research screenings are in, and unofficial word is that the movie is very good, and Nick Nolte is great.

Whether acting or directing, La Streisand has always been rapped for ensuring that she shines in her movies at the expense of her co-stars (remember Richard Dreyfuss in "Nuts"?). But in "The Prince of Tides," Streisand, who plays the New York psychiatrist love interest of Nolte, a down-on-his-luck football coach, reportedly gives a restrained performance while directing Nolte in a brilliant one. Spies at one research screening said that the audience responded to a scene in which Nolte described a rape scene from his character's childhood. Meanwhile, George Carlin, who's got a small role in the movie for comic relief, steals his scenes too.About the only negatives to report is that the movie has what's described as numerous glamour shots of Streisand's body parts filmed through what looks like a Vaseline-coated lens. - NIKKI FINKE

- A London hospital for seriously sick children will receive at least $1 million from the Christmas release of Steven Spielberg's epic fantasy "Hook."

The film, which stars Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts and Maggie Smith, is based on the 1904 children's play "Peter Pan." Author J.M. Barrie made a gift of the play's perpetual rights in 1929 to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which ever since has benefited from its royalties.

Spielberg paid a reported $500,000 for an option to make "Hook." In addition, Great Ormond Street signed deals with Columbia Tri-Star under which a further $500,000 will be raised from "Hook" premieres around the world. And if the movie manages to clean up at the box office, the hospital will also receive 3.75 percent of its net income.

Yet as Great Ormond Street spokesman Alicja Kujawa explained, only a hastily amended Act of Parliament prevented the hospital from losing out on the lucrative "Hook" deal.

"Barrie, who loved children, confirmed in his will that we would retain the copyright to `Peter Pan,' " she said. "But 50 years after his death in 1937, the original British copyright expired."

Enter Lady Callaghan, who was chairman of special trustees for the hospital. She was instrumental in reminding lawmakers of Barrie's wishes for the copyright of "Peter Pan." Her husband Lord Callaghan, the former British prime minister, succeeded in securing a unique amendment to the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act of 1988; Parliament voted to give Great Ormond Street continuing rights to royalties from "Peter Pan" as long as it exists.

At the 348-bed hospital, founded in 1852, the staff is fervently hoping "Hook" will be a success. "We offer care for very difficult and complicated cases, requiring specialized techniques," Kujawa said. "And we need 10 million ($17 million) a year over and above government funding to maintain our standard of care." - DAVID GRITTEN

- In Hollywood, where every personnel change is usually followed by the roar of whispers, the hubbub surrounding Jon Peters' split from Columbia's top spot has been surprisingly quiet. The reason is that Peters' separation agreement included a gag order for everyone involved. Insiders report that the gag order is supposed to last 45 days from May 8, the day Columbia announced that Peters was stepping down from his high-placed perch. Which means that Peters, and everyone else, can't tell the inside story behind the change until the gag order expires Saturday - and maybe not even then.

- It had to happen, given the headlines. The newest trend in movie-making is setting a screenplay in Palm Beach, Fla. The first to come out of the blocks will be the Samuel Goldwyn Co., which is readying a thriller set in that sun-sex-and-cents capital with Dennis Quaid penciled in to star. Columbia also is considering a Palm Beach-set screenplay. And producers are clamoring to get their hands on the recent gossipy cover story that appeared in New York magazine titled "The Palm Beach Story." So far there's one thing to be thankful for: No story lines bear any resemblance to the ongoing Kennedy rape scandal.

Figuring that millions of young moviegoers would be avidly following the star-studded matchup between the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, Tri-Star Pictures kicked off its TV ad campaign for "Boyz N the Hood" by running a series of 30-second spots for the upcoming inner-city drama during the NBA championship series.

But guess who got the most free publicity out of the Bulls-Lakers series? None other than Spike Lee. Not only did Nike rerun all of the film maker's sneaker ads, but Lee got a ton of exposure for his "Malcolm X" project - which isn't due until 1992 - from America's most popular celeb pitchman . . . Michael Jordan. Jordan showed up for interviews on two different days wearing a black cap with a silver X, with a button displaying a photo of Malcolm X attached to the front of the cap.

Said one sports reporter: "You gotta figure Spike was rooting for the Bulls. Michael looks like a walking billboard for Spike's new movie." If so, Spike is a happy man. The Bulls won the series in five games. -PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

- A running joke in Hollywood goes something like this: Anyone can claim to be a producer. More often than not, though, it means they produce one thing - their business card - and they do it every chance they get.

At only 21, Tanya York is producing more than that: She's got two features in the can and three on the way. She hasn't been to college, let alone film or business school. She's managed to raise several million dollars at a time when funding for independents is hard to come by. And as a woman barely out of her teens she is an anomaly in an industry dominated by thirtysomething and fortysomething-year-old men.

What York produces should not be confused with high art: "The Deadly Avenger" was a raw action movie starring Jan Michael Vincent and Erik Estrada that went straight to video. Her upcoming film is "Hell Comes to Frogtown II," a Ninja turtles-type tale that York - with an earnest face - describes as being set "after a nuclear holocaust, on a mutant reservation of frog creatures." (If you missed the first "Frogtown," you're not alone: New World Pictures ran out of money before it could be released into theaters, but the film now has a small cult following on video and late-night cable TV.)

But in an era when Hollywood studios are gambling tens of millions of dollars per movie (industry insiders are wagering that "Hudson Hawk" will be lucky to make back a fraction of its budget), York's busy production company is a reminder that independents are making scores of low-budget movies each year that do make money. What it usually takes is a couple of familiar names in the cast and some inventive filming: The "Frogtown" interiors, for example, were shot inside empty space upstairs from York's own modest Hollywood Boulevard office.

York herself was inspired by watching movies that cost $70,000 bring in $800,000, or $2 million movies making $8 million - all without ever reaching theaters. These tiny films become profitable because of the proliferation of other outlets - such as video, TV and foreign markets.

By designing a business plan based on revenues from these ancillary markets, York was able to persuade a small group of investors to put up money for five movies ranging in budgets from $1 million to $2 million. "She has a tremendous business drive, and she was able to make the contacts," says Donald G. Jackson, director of both "Frogtown" movies.

Born in Jamaica and raised in London, York appears to have inherited her business acumen from her mother, who made a small fortune by developing and selling a system of speed-learning for typing. At age 15, York left school to help manage her mother's business and went on to do some acting and modeling.

When she and her mother moved to Los Angeles a couple of years later, York worked as an extra on films before parlaying an internship on the low-budget feature "Roller Blade Warriors" into a makeup and production design position. She got her first break as an associate producer when actor-producer-director David Heavener hired her on "Twisted Justice."