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Cashing In on ‘Angels’ Dreams

LOS ANGELES — There’s a new (well, new again) license coming to town and its name is Charlie. <br><br>With the June 27 release of “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” — the sequel to the first $263 million, big-screen...

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LOS ANGELES — There’s a new (well, new again) license coming to town and its name is Charlie.

With the June 27 release of “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” — the sequel to the first $263 million, big-screen version of the big-haired Seventies TV series — Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony, is ramping up the licensing program for what is already being hailed as a summer blockbuster.

The target: junior and tween apparel and accessories for broad retail distribution, from mass chains like Kmart and Wal-Mart to midlevel department stores like J.C. Penney Co. to such specialty stores as Fred Segal. That’s markedly different from the first film’s fashion program, mostly comprising limited novelty items like beaded jeans at Henri Bendel and sunglasses at Sunglass Hut. With total revenues of overall entertainment character licensing reaching $2.48 billion in 2001, and apparel and accessories accounting for 16 percent of that, or $400.5 million, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association, those behind the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise are banking on a heavenly season at retail. Industry sources estimate the movie has the potential to do $10 million at retail.

Introducing this approach to licensing is Al Ovadia, Sony Pictures’ executive vice president of consumer products, who arrived in December 2000 — after the first film had been marketed and merchandised. Ovadia recognized the potential for a larger portfolio of product —particularly a franchise that could have its own fashion identity apart from the movie. His idea includes nonrepresentational graphics based on wildly popular Japanese anime that could be easily adapted by each of the licensors to create a seamless image.

Ovadia and his team also recognized that the teen and tween markets, currently the fastest-growing consumer demographic, were sorely undermarketed in the movie-licensing category. Teens and tweens spent a combined $18 billion on apparel last year. Most license-friendly films, with the exception of “Charlie’s Angels” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” have been geared toward boys. So the studio set out to fill the void with a fashion-oriented program that had the potential to sell long after the film is on video.

“Bringing any new sportswear line to the market is tough,” he admitted, adding that editorial hits in magazines like the July issue of Seventeen and product sampling at last February’s New York Fashion Week have helped.

Industry observers believe the anime angle will give the program legs. “We call this an inspirational license,” said Carole Postal, founder of COP Corp., a licensing and consulting firm based in New York. “When you’re talking about three actresses’ likenesses, that’s not what you use to create brand longevity. The anime look is the smart way to do it.”

Christiane Freiss, Sony’s vice president of creative, a former runway model and graphic designer, played a key role in creating the art program. “Girls don’t want a person’s face plastered on their T-shirt. They want things that look like what Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz might wear in the film or in real life.”

Freiss said she was impressed by the fashion programs for “Moulin Rouge,” which were sold through Bloomingdale’s. The Japanese music and animated culture of the “Angels” projects, she said, “really connects our pop-culture icons to fashion. I tried to push this with the first movie, and the studio wasn’t quite ready for it. Now, the time has come.”

To that end, the program includes agreements with 15 licensing veterans, namely T-shirts by Giant, loungewear by MJC, bedding by Dan River and small leather goods and accessories by Accessory Partners. Most product is hitting retail now through late June.

Unlike other entertainment character properties, this program is a first in many ways, noted Mark Siegel, president of San Francisco-based MJC. He said MJC’s “Angels” collection of boy-style briefs, camis and lounge pants priced from $3 to $8 wholesale is a first for the noveltywear maker whose primary business in the past has been men’s.

“The size of our buying floor for ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is twice as big as any other license we have and we feel this will be our strongest license of 2003. It should exceed our entire 2002 volume, which included brands like Coke and Hershey’s,” he added. He declined to estimate retail sales.

In another twist on the traditional licensing formula, Los Angeles-based contemporary handbag resource Timi & Leslie, whose product normally sells in Henri Bendel and Fred Segal, will produce a line of bags aimed at the sophisticated junior and contemporary customer, priced at $50 to $85 wholesale.

“We’ve never done a license before, but the studio really wanted to associate itself with upscale designers and the feedback has been great,” said co-owner and designer Leslie Newton, who projected $100,000 in sales in limited California and Canada specialty store distribution. “The concept of the bags is for someone to notice them as cute bags first, and see the label second,” she said, referring to the abstract anime-inspired graphics used sparingly on the bags, the hangtag and inside label the only indication of “Charlie’s Angels.”

This program is aimed at what Postal calls the secondary market — the older, wealthier consumer who might have a nostalgic association with the original series and/or a desire for the current anime trend.

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