Italy braces for ‘Park’push

Dinosaurs are about to invade Italy in the form of the country’s biggest film merchandising campaign ever.

Apart from being the widest film release ever attempted in Italy — with 300 prints poised for Sept. 17 –“Jurassic Park” promises to break new ground in this territory for film merchandising. Italo license-holder European Licensing Group expects total volume of dino merchandising biz to hit a minimum 100 billion lire, or $ 60 million.

ELG Italia’s Regine Labrosse is convinced “Jurassic” merchandising will succeed in Italy where several other attemptsfailed. If the “Jurassic” gadgets catch on, it’ll pave the way for more product licensing deals here.

“I’m always being told ‘it’ll never work in Italy.’ It’s simply not true,” Labrosse said.

Film merchandising has been slow to catch on in Italy for a few reasons.

For one thing, theaters are nearly all independently owned so its hard to set up campaigns; they close during the summer; the huge quantity of films released and their short runs make it hard to pick a winning film; and piracy is rampant.

The only other significant film merchandising campaign, “Batman,” fell far short of target, probably because the film’s audience in Italy was ill-defined and the comic book not widely known.

But status-conscious Italians spend a lot of money on clothing, toys and consumer goods.

With “Jurassic” items licensed to 37 companies, ELG is betting that consumers won’t be able to resist the flood of dino towels, notebooks, boxer shorts, stationery, T-shirts and snacks.

The merchandising campaign, along with a dinosaur exhibit in Rome skedded to open the same time as the film, will create a pop culture “event” status for the film that’s a marketing exec’s bread and butter in America but still novel for Italy.

The main focus of the dino exhibit will be educational, with a re-creation of the Jurassic-age rain forest using reproductions of dinosaurs in the film designed by R.C.I., which did a similar show at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Organized by Mino Damato, a well-known Italian TV host and journalist, the exhibit is also tied to the film, with “Jurassic Park” film props and a gift shop outside selling ELG-licensed souvenirs.

Though film merchandising is in its infancy in Italy, Labrosse noted that the devalued lira and high-quality workmanship here is making Italy an ideal place for producing licensed products that can be shipped across Europe in the post- 1993 EC common market. This new freedom of movement of goods and services across borders is already affecting the way merchandising is handled in Europe.

For example, an Italian toy company called Mondo bought pan-Euro rights from ELG to produce rubber balls bearing the likeness of the Sonic the Hedgehog character from the SEGA videogame.

ELG did a similar pan-Euro deal with a notebook-maker called Decorline to produce Guns N’ Roses folders, pens and notebooks.

With the main office in Amsterdam and branches across Europe, ELG is well-placed to exploit Euro-wide merchandising campaigns. But others are not.

“Now it’s perfectly legal to import a ‘Jurassic’ T-shirt made in France without paying duty tax or anything on it. You’ll get your Italian agent hopping mad, of course. But how long will that last?” Labrosse asked.

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