It was only a matter of time. Barry Diller, once chief of Paramount Pictures, wants to be in pictures--again. Three years after taking over the stumbling Home Shopping Network, the man credited with inventing movies of the week is looking for a bargain-basement way back into making films.

The maneuver is part of Diller's strategy to convert USA Networks into a media powerhouse. Within weeks, he is expected to buy from Universal Pictures the remnants of Polygram Filmed Entertainment, a maker of independent films such as the current release Elizabeth. On Jan. 11, his bit for October Films was rebuffed.

A Polygram deal would again put Diller across the table from Seagram Co. chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. Intimates say Bronfman wants Diller to take Polygram off his hands for $400 million. In return, Bronfman, whose com- pany owns 45% of USA, may drop its objections to Diller's plans for buying a television network, perhaps NBC.

Besides Polygram, associates say Diller is looking at the Bravo and Independent Film channels. They are perfect Diller acquisitions: cheap, with nowhere to go but up.

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