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DreamWorks Signs Woody Allen

May 17, 2000 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Woody Allen has a new home in Hollywood.

The filmmaker has not forsaken his native New York City, but he has signed a long-term deal for DreamWorks SKG, the studio founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, to distribute his upcoming comedies.

The move comes after some nomadic years for Allen. Since his longtime distributor, Orion Pictures, hit financial hard times in the early 1990s, his movies have landed at various distributors, including Miramax, Sony Pictures Classics, Fine Line and Columbia TriStar.


Allen signed with DreamWorks for his latest comedy, ``Small Time Crooks,″ and recently agreed to have the studio distribute his next three comedies as well.

DreamWorks’ 1998 animated film ``Antz″ featured Allen as the voice of the lead bug, a character who also adopted some of Allen’s neurotic film persona.

Katzenberg said he got up the courage to ask Allen if he would consider an animated movie, ``and by the way, we’d love you to play an ant. Woody’s always had a wonderful sense of humor, so he laughed at the idea and said, ’Why not? It’s a good story.‴

Allen said he has a good relationship with Katzenberg and thinks DreamWorks does ``a very strong sell on things, a classy sell.″

The deal covers only comedies. If Allen does more serious films first, he is free to shop them elsewhere, Katzenberg said.

Allen, whose darker, dramatic films generally are less popular than his funny ones, said he has a backlog of good comic ideas he plans to pump out.

``I thought I ought to start making some of these ideas because I’m getting older, and who knows what could happen to me?″ said the 64-year-old director.

``I don’t want to have them lying around in my drawer as unrealized, unattempted great comic ideas that I never got to.″

Of the one he’s writing now, he would say only that ``it’s a contemporary comedy, and it is, I think, a very funny, satirical idea that takes place in New York and perhaps a little bit in California.″

Allen hopes the DreamWorks connection will boost audiences for his films, which usually have disappointing box-office returns in the United States. His last two movies, ``Celebrity″ and ``Sweet and Lowdown,″ each grossed about $4 million to $5 million.

``Certainly, our hopes are that ‘Small Time Crooks’ will do more than 4 or 5 million,″ Katzenberg said. ``It’s not as though we’re counting on 30 or 40 million. If it goes into double digits, it’ll be a success.″

DreamWorks is opening the movie in about 750 theaters, far wider than Allen’s movies typically play.

``If anybody can, DreamWorks can,″ Allen said. ``Everybody thinks ‘Small Time Crooks’ is going to be commercially successful because it’s got bank robbery, it’s full of gags. I hope it is, but I’m used to the fact that expectations are always high, and nobody can ever figure out why the films don’t get an audience.″