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`SEDUCTION’ PLEA FAILS TO PERSUADE JUDGE

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"The Last Seduction" will not be listed in the first mailing of Oscar ballots after a judge on Friday rejected arguments that the film was unfairly labeled ineligible for Academy Award consideration because it first was broadcast on television.

Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien denied a request for a temporary restraining order halting the mailing of Oscar ballots along with a list of the 248 eligible films of 1994. But he set a preliminary hearing on Jan. 6 in which he will consider an application for an injunction against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences blocking the film's exclusion.Lawyers for October Films, makers of "The Last Seduction," and its distributor, sued the academy last week claiming the 40-year-old rule - which disqualifies any film from Oscar consideration if it was first shown on TV instead of a movie theater - violates state codes against unfair business practices.

"We are delighted with the judge's ruling," said October Films attorney Pierce O'Donnell. "The court has rejected the academy's attempt to throw the case out of court entirely. We acknowledge we have an uphill battle."

Home Box Office paid October Films $1 million to first broadcast the suspense thriller in July. The film, currently an art house hit, has since won film critics awards for director John Dahl and lead actress Linda Fiorentino.

Academy president Arthur Hiller said O'Brien's ruling confirms the claims made by October Films "are completely without merit."

"We were expecting the temporary restraining order to be denied, but we weren't anticipating such a wholesale rejection of their arguments so early in the proceedings," Hiller said.

Oscar ballots are set to be mailed to about 1,000 out-of-state voters on Jan. 5, and to the remaining 4,000 local voting members of the academy on Jan. 13. Nominations are announced in February, and the award's show will take place the following month.

"We say the rule forces a cruel choice," O'Donnell said Friday. "Either you take the money and forego academy consideration, or you reject the money and go broke and your film might be eligible for the Oscars."