If Japan's Matsushita Electric Industries Co., better known as Panasonic, can complete its planned $8 billion buyout of MCA/Universal Pictures, expect an eventual merger of Walt Disney Co. and Paramount Pictures.

This prediction comes from former Columbia Pictures chairman David Puttnam, who forecasts a movie business dominated by six huge studios, only three of them American owned.The six: Universal, owned by Matsushita, Sony-owned Columbia, MGM/UA (about to be taken over by Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti), Time Warner, Disney-Paramount and 20th Century Fox.

- "Prince of Tides" author Pat Conroy on Barbra Streisand, who's directing and stars in the movie version of his best seller: "She's smart as hell to take this novel of biblical length and pretension and break it down into a movie. She's not afraid of anything. Her sheer will is the reason this movie is getting made."

- Paul Newman has donated $100,000 in profits from his food products company to the Motion Picture Academy's new film study center.

- Kevin Costner has become an honorary Indian. The Sioux Nation made the actor-director an adopted member of the tribe because of his sensitive portrayal of Sioux people in his upcoming movie "Dances With the Wolves." About 30 percent of the flick is done in the Sioux language Lakota, with subtitles.

- It's auction time for a couple of Mozart originals. Manuscripts of two 18th-century works, the Fantasia in C Minor and the Sonata in C Minor, are expected to fetch between $900,000 and $1.4 million when they go on the block next month in London. The original scores were found in a safe at Philadelphia's Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

- Will this be the last chance to see Tony Bennett live in the San Francisco showroom where he long ago left his heart? Bennett has signed for a New Year's Eve one-night stand in the Fairmont Hotel's closed-down Venetian Room, which will reopen on a one-time-only basis.

- Tom Selleck learned some aboriginal dialect while making the upcoming "Quigley Down Under" in Australia last summer.

Selleck was a big attraction for the native Australians used as extras in the movie. They got free blankets, billy cans for their Australian tea and two days' pay - but still were reluctant to climb on buses for the filming location because they were in the midst of a mourning period for a recently deceased tribal elder.

"It was what's known as sorry time,' " said producer Alex Rose. "But when they learned they'd . . . meet Big Boss Magnum,' they were only too happy to board the buses."