TCM Takes Tinseltown by Retail

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Turner Classic Movies has made its mark by having viewers buy into its presentations of vintage Hollywood films.

Now, the service hopes consumers will purchase movie-related memorabilia and branded products at a new store near Tinseltown dubbed “In the Picture.”

TCM — an ad-free channel that crossed the 70 million-household plateau this month after recent launches by Comcast Corp. and Adelphia Communications Corp. — made its initial foray into the retail arena with a 2,500-square-foot outlet that opened on Oct. 4 in The Grove, an outdoor mall about a mile from Hollywood.

HIGH ON TRAFFIC

Located in a former FAO Schwarz toy outlet, In The Picture is “another way for us to bring the classic films we show on the network to life,” TCM executive vice president and general manager Tom Karsch said. “It’s a great way to expose the brand in a high-traffic location.”

It is slated to stay open through year’s end.

Dubbed an “experiential marketing” venture, In The Picture features what TCM is calling the largest collection of memorabilia from Casablanca ever assembled, including the doors from Rick’s Café, the piano, costumes, the film’s Best Picture Oscar and various props.

Other items in the exhibition include the rara avis from The Maltese Falcon, the robe worn by Katharine Hepburn in Adam’s Rib, an original script from The Wizard of Oz and a dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Giant.

The store, with monitors showing clips from vintage movies, sells classic-movie-themed merchandise, including products and books produced with Chronicle Books and Graphique de France.

Prints from TCM’s new tome, In the Picture: Production Stills from the TCM Archives, are also available.

While TCM has been selling items on its Web site over the past couple of years, retail is a completely different reel.

“This is an experiment,” Karsch said. “If it feels like this is a self-sustaining business, we’ll consider other options. We’re not looking to roll out a group of stores. Retail is a tough, expensive business.”

There are insurance and security costs, among other issues. Sister company Warner Bros. has exited the store wars.

Still, Karsch said TCM and Grove officials have discussed smaller, ongoing opportunities at the mall after this run ends.

NO DEAN SLAPPING

Karsch categorized the product line as upscale, but “not exclusionary.” On the other hand, he said, “TCM is not interested in slapping James Dean or Marilyn Monroe images on a bunch of stuff. That’s not our brand.”

The retail experiment builds on TCM’s first mall entry this past summer: “Lights! Camera! Classics!,” a touring collection of film memorabilia and “hands-on” elements sponsored by DirecTV Inc. It rolled into eight markets.

Karsch said TCM — long keen on theater and outdoor-park screenings as brand-building devices — plans a similar jaunt for 2005 and expects to offer cable affiliates a chance to participate.

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