It didn't take Ray Stark long to run back to Columbia Pictures. Stark, the veteran Hollywood producer who's believed to have been a significant force in the maneuvering that resulted in former studio chief David Puttnam being forced out at Columbia Pictures, has gotten a green light from new Columbia President Dawn Steele to launch "The Way We Are," a sequel to the 1973 hit "The Way We Were." Puttnam didn't like sequels or powerful Hollywood producers, and Stark reportedly didn't like Puttnam -- but now, said an executive at Stark's Rastar Productions, the company expects to get to work soon on as many as eight films for Columbia.

Neither Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand nor director Sydney Pollack has committed to "The Way We Are." But Stark has plenty of other films in the works as well: They include sequels to the flop musical "Annie" and the hit comedy "The Secret of My Success," plus a modernized film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "State of the Union," a new Peter Bogdanovich film entitled "Intimate Writings of Theodor Hammer," and Alan Alda in "Joint Venture," which has been described, in nitpicking terms, as "the first contemporary romantic comedy to be shot entirely in China." To Market, to Market

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Or, at least, it's beginning to look a lot like a holiday at the movie theaters: Suddenly films such as "Moonstruck" and "Broadcast News" are being released on Wednesdays instead of Fridays, a sure sign that the studios are trying to position their potential blockbusters in a way that will give them a jump on the competition. (When there's no competition, or when movies don't have a prayer commercially, they're never released on Wednesdays.)

To Market, to Market: Part 2

Release dates aren't the only maneuvering that's taking place this month: Several studios have been trying out new marketing plans of late, in attempts to make sure that their pictures are the ones that will be noticed when moviegoers want to take a break from Christmas shopping.

Perhaps the riskiest move came last week during the Thursday night showing of "L.A. Law," when 20th Century Fox showed four ads for "Broadcast News." Usually, studios spread their prime-time ads around different networks and time slots -- but Fox, apparently convinced that "L.A. Law" viewers are exactly the same people (you know: yuppies) who'd be interested in its movie, spent almost a million dollars to reach the same audience four times.

And New World Pictures thinks it knows where to find the audience for its upcoming "Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night," an $8 million animated feature due out Christmas Day. Figuring that prospective viewers are in the malls these days, they've centered their marketing tie-ins on shopping centers and fast-food outlets, also working on conjunction with the Marine Corps' "Toys for Tots" program and, in some cases, putting Pinocchio alongside Santa Claus in department stores.

To Market, to Market: Part 3

"Leonard Part 6" may be getting terrible word-of-mouth, but a recent in-house magazine at Coca-Cola described the movie as "the greatest cooperative marketing effort ever between the entertainment and the soft drink businesses of The Coca-Cola Company." That includes free Leonard "spy cameras" to Coke drinkers, plus "a deluge of cups, posters, pullover shirts and buttons sporting the 'Leonard Part 6' characters and logo." None of that will help, incidentally, at theaters in the large, fast-growing Cineplex chain, which last week canceled its plans to show "Leonard" in 140 of its theaters, reportedly because the company is furious at Columbia Pictures for canceling plans to show "The Last Emperor" at some Cineplex theaters.