The company is based in Manhattan, which, as fans know, may as well be Allen's middle name. And Doumanian and Allen are so close that they have had dinner "twice a week for years," said Allen's longtime producer, Charles Joffe. At one dinner last October, Allen successfully used the Heimlich maneuver on a choking Doumanian.
From his previous studio homes at United Artists, Orion Pictures and most recently TriStar, executives have given Allen rare creative freedoms and have frequently boasted that, while Allen films do not generate Spielberg-size grosses, there is a prestige factor from their association with his work. Even though he personally avoids awards shows, Allen won Oscars as director and for best picture for his 1977 "Annie Hall" and a writing award for his 1986 movie "Hannah and Her Sisters."
However, no Allen film since has approached "Hannah's" $40-million gross.
Although his last film, "Husbands and Wives," eventually made money after its international showings, TriStar was not so fortunate with the U.S. and Canadian runs last September. The company took a risk in releasing the movie in a broader number of theaters than usual for an Allen movie, and moved the release forward, hoping to take advantage of all the publicity that resulted from the Allen-Farrow feud. But the gamble failed to pay off as the film grossed only $10.5 million in the domestic market against a reported $12 million that TriStar spent to market it and another $12 million-plus to produce it.
Allen's change of production companies comes only weeks before TriStar is to release his latest film, "Manhattan Murder Mystery," on Aug. 18 in Los Angeles and New York and Aug. 20 in a limited urban market run of 250 screens. The suspense comedy stars Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston.
Asked if Allen's departure will lessen the studio's enthusiasm for "Manhattan Murder Mystery," Medavoy replied: "God, no. We're excited about the film . . . it's an old-time Woody Allen comedy."
It wasn't clear how Allen's longtime producers, Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe, will fit into the new equation. But Joffe said the new arrangement "gives Woody a chance to make money for a change." He said the two producers will continue to be associated with Allen productions.
Aronson said that all of Allen's future films will be presented as a "Jean Doumanian production."
Aronson added: "Let's face it, it boils down to whether or not the pictures are good. And there's no studio executive who would turn down making or distributing a good film, regardless of who did it."