Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Movies Don't End at Theater They're Perfecting Art of Product Licensing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Movies Don't End at Theater They're Perfecting Art of Product Licensing

Article excerpt

Even before her debut on the big screen, Pocahontas has been poking around consumers' pocketbooks.

Casper and his ghostly comrades have tried scaring up loose change for Pepsi and Pizza Hut. And the title of "Batman Forever" hints at just how long the film's marketing punch may linger in your battered budget.

Yikes! Watch out, parents. This summer movie season is bound to be a costly one.

Not only are family movies demanding mucho dinero at the box office; they're after a piece of your grocery bill and clothing budget, too.

Almost every family film this season has links with some fast-food chain, children's cereal, candy bar or video game, guaranteeing profits long after the film leaves theaters.

Don't bother going to a toy store; your neighborhood fast-food eatery will gladly dump a host of Pocahontas or Batman "action figures" into your bag. Taco Bell even promises gorillas in our midst, should we take part in its "Congo" promotion.

These days, even the theme parks seem like one long movie trailer. Disney has Pocahontas attractions. Six Flags' Batman ride has been soaring for weeks. And Universal is showing the behind-the-screens secrets to making Casper a Friendly Ghost.

"It's partly about building (movie) awareness, but it's also about profits and generating revenue," said Karen Raugust, editor of The Licensing Letter, a newsletter that follows the $70-billion product licensing business.

It's not enough that "Casper" generated $55 million during its first two weeks at the box office; high-tech, high-cost movies need auxiliary revenue to make them profitable enough for studios, she said.

"It used to be considered ancillary revenue," added Ira Mayer, publisher of the Entertainment Marketing Letter. "Now they won't make a movie unless they can make some licensing deals."

There's no such thing as too much hype, said Neil Friedman, president of MCA/Universal Merchandising, which handles the friendly ghost's licensing deals.

"It not only gives you a heightened awareness early on, but it also helps people who enjoyed the movie relive (it) through the products that are available," he said. …

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