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February 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 2


Hollywood ToyBoy: Partnering Up in a Recession

Hard Times Call for Help With a Handshake

“It was a lot of fun to see how excited the [store]owners were to get our direct support.”
"What do you mean the cost of a triple mocha double shot Peruvian half-caf latte has gone up?! Don’t they know there’s a recession going on!?!” I scream at my beleaguered assistant, who, by the way, is still being paid her full salary despite the economic crunch.

As everyone with a checkbook knows, money is tight, and despite government intervention, the recession isn’t going away anytime soon. Does this mean sad times for the movie and toy business? Hardly.

Big-picture economic difficulties rarely trouble entertainment as much as other sectors. People want to escape, and kids still want toys. But there’s another side to that coin: finding ways to save money in the process of making it. As they say in Hollywood: a few million dollars here and a few million dollars there, and pretty soon, it adds up to real money. And one of the best ways to save money the Hollywood way is teaming up to spread the risk.


“Hollywood, as well as other businesses, ha[s] been sharing the burden of initial investments,” expounded my ex-real-estate maven, now movie-maven, buddy, whom I’m letting buy me this expensive steak dinner.

“Movies have just gotten too expensive, so a couple of studios, or maybe a handful of independents, will go in together in the hopes of lessening their full-contact upfront risk. Or, even better, share a slate of movies in the upfront stages, then help each other advertise at the far end. It’s a trick they learned from the oil biz, and it works on many levels.”

A genius-type PR rep for one of the studios explained this further, as I plied her with whiskey sours: “I’m almost living with the other PR people from the various studios. We’re all one big happy family, in that we’ve shared the PR tasks,” she said. “No more cutthroat backstabbing in these difficult economic times. Even in merchandizing, we’re sharing the burdens together. Better to share the profits than hog the losses. And I’m seeing it happen in the retail end, too.”


It seems that retail stores, if they’re aggressive in their wooing, can get advertising help from studios, toy manufacturers, even magazines and newspapers. “I helped a string of toy stores across the western states with the rollout of our latest film’s merchandise” mentioned a mouse-eared rep from an unnamed studio known for its animated movies.

“I was first approached by one guy who represented the other ‘little’ independent stores in one city, and it blossomed from there. We got them all sorts of advertising goodies, actors to visit, and they really pushed the toys,” he said. “We’ve done that in the past, but normally to only the major distributors. But times are rougher now, and going door-to-door, as it were, makes more sense. Besides, it was a lot of fun to see how excited the owners were to get our direct support.”

I asked other people in the industry and got the same answer: Team up, get help, share the risk. Pool your resources with other stores and ask for help from the studios and toy manufacturers. To get through the tough times, reach out for a partner.

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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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