Business: Hot Tip? Get Shorty.

In their bid to turn cell phones into portable cinemas, mobile-phone giants Sprint, Verizon and others are summoning their inner Miramax and discovering the film-festival circuit. This week, for example, Cingular and its wireless-content partner HBO are scoping out the Urbanworld VIBE Film Festival in New York, in part to hunt for short films suitable for the size-challenged cell-phone screen. "I've already set aside six shorts that I thought would be perfect for the [mobile multimedia service]," says Stacy Spikes, who founded Urbanworld 10 years ago. If Spikes's taste doesn't match theirs, Cingular and HBO will get to reach out directly to filmmakers by participating in a panel, "Content on the Go: Opportunities in the Mobile Arena."

Meanwhile, Nokia is setting up a tent this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival to show off its mobile-video phones and technology. Sprint is calling on one of the most famous festivals of all--Sundance. In addition to cosponsoring the event this year, Sprint provided a cellcast of "Live@Sundance," a daily highlight of premieres, filmmaker interviews and other activities. "Because of the evolution of [wireless] Sprint TV, we are able to provide an enhanced experience for film fans," says Sprint spokeswoman Angie Read. Sprint is now studying whether to make a big splash at other festivals, she says, calling such events "an interesting universe" for pursuing the company's multimedia ambitions.

The mobile giants aren't alone in prowling film festivals for video-to-go. MTV, which operates MTV Mobile and the broadband Internet site Overdrive, will be surveying Urbanworld for abbreviated content to distribute wirelessly and online. "We are looking for short-form content just for wireless, Overdrive and video on demand," says Paul DeBenedittis, MTV's top executive for multiplatform programming. Atom Films, an online site with a library of 1,500 shorts, has been at festivals since it launched in 1998. "In the last year, it's really picked up," says CEO Mika Salmi. "A lot of the major media companies and the mobile-phone companies are actively looking for video content. The real money is definitely in the game now."