WB in toon with Gotham shoppers

GOOD MORNING from New York, where I went Christmas shopping Monday with Bob Daly, Terry Semel and WB exex Peter Starrett and Dan Romanelli. The site — Warner Bros.’ American flagship store. “I’m blown away,” Daly beamed as he and the group previewed tonight’s charity opening of the latest and largest — 30, 000 square feet — of the Warner stores. It’s on 5th Ave. and 57th St., which has now been nicknamed carat (“carrot”?) corner — the occupants of the other three corners are Bulgari, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, and nearby Bergdorf. Nonplussed New Yorkers, some of whom decried the opening of the “store” on their beloved 5th Ave. have been lining up by the hundreds, no, thousands, to get a peek at the five-story building that officially opens Wednesday after tonight’s charity premiere for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. More than 1,000 will attend. Over $ 100,000 was raised before the doors opened — and WB donates total proceeds from the event to the charity …”Steve Ross would have loved it,” said one exec. “He bought a million dollars in gifts annually and this would have been his pride and joy”… This is the 55th WB store — including five in the U.K. There’ll be 100 by year’s end, I was told, 17 more before Thanksgiving. It is becoming a major number in the Time Warner financial world … I have heard reports ranging up to $ 20 million for individual stores’ annual gross — depending on size, of course.

GERALD LEVIN, chairman/CEO of Time Warner, standing underneath the giant Bat Jet on the store’s second floor, addressed a group of 200 investor relations/Wall Street types Monday night. He predicted the crowds will be so huge, no one will be able to get in the store Wednesday morning … As he spoke, Superman was “lifting” an elevator full of enthusiastic previewers to a third floor of action. Some noted the day’s latest news on Paramount’s suitors — who would make that studio interactive — and reminded that WB was already well-established in that world with its cable systems, U S West and its pilot program already set in Orlando. To help demonstrate the new interactive world, WB store has giant screens affording visitors the opportunity to choose interactive information from all kinds of TV shows. F’rinstance on a basketball game, you can select the angle of play, closeup, etc., obtain statistics on each player as the game progresses. And youngsters get to work interactive screenings of cartoons by having the option to choose their own colorings in each section of a cartoon story … Every 15 minutes, the lights dim on the second floor and a battle from “Batman” is projected on a giant screen as the “Bat” descends from the ceiling and gives chase to Jack Nicholson in full “Joker” villainy. It is even more effective than it was on theater screens. Terry Semel was certain Nicholson could have no beef about use of his clips in the store since he has one of the richest deals in movie history — including merchandise.

ON HAND FOR TONIGHT’S premiere of the WB store is Clint Eastwood, who Wednesday receives a tribute from the Museum of Modern Art … The store premiere, which will have 5th Ave. klieg-lighted and fan-filled, will also boast the arrivals of Sylvester Stallone, whose “Demolition Man” is WB’s current hit. Another Sylvester will add to the unusual doings on the avenue — the animated, Oscar-winning cat who stars opposite Tweety Bird. The WB celebration wouldn’t be complete without Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the other cartoon characters. The history of the WB cartoon is also a part of the unique store and Chuck Jones is on hand to take a bow … Liza Minnelli is guest of honor at tonight’s opening festivities. At Monday’s press preview, over 200 scribes, domestic and foreign, showed the interest in this newest phase of showbiz. Semel, president of WB studios, hosted the preem Monday night and chairman Bob Daly co-hosted … As guests arrived in the store, an interactive screen hosted by Bugs Bunny permitted visitors to inquire about the location of anything in the store — from items to first aid! … The three floors of the store of course offer thousands of items for sale — most are adult-aimed and many are exclusive to the Manhattan store. They include memorabilia for the growing group of collectors. Prices range from $ 1.50 to $ 10,000 for original works of art. Cels for sale include those from Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Virgil Ross … Peter Starrett, president/WB worldwide retail, said the flagship store’s site of N.Y. was chosen rather than Hollywood because N.Y. “is the epicenter for so much of what is going on in the world culturally.” He also reminds, “Most of Warner Bros.’ executives are former New Yorkers, so we have a natural affinity for this city. There’s great nostalgia for New York in the movie industry and certainly at the WB studio in particular.”