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Inside Moves

Roth seeks 'Witch' maven

A month after Joe Roth ankled the Mouse House to form his own shingle, talk has increased about the ways in which one of the most powerful men in Hollywood will structure his company.

Roth is in talks with advisers and potential investors in both the film and new-media worlds, and he is definitely interested in hiring Artisan marketing maven John Hegeman — the Internet guru behind the phenomenally successful “The Blair Witch Project.”

On the eve of his Disney departure (Daily Variety, Jan. 13), Roth said, “It’s an exciting time for those of us who make movies and seek content. What happened with ‘Blair Witch’ and marketing is very intriguing.”

Who would have thought Roth was being literal?

Roth, Hegeman and Artisan could not be reached for comment.

— Charles Lyons

Scientology to get ‘Earth’ toy coin

The most intriguing aspect of the toy line based on Warner Bros. and John Travolta’s Franchise Pictures’ “Battlefield Earth” may not be the “Ratbastard”-spouting Travolta doll. It could just be the millions of dollars the Church of Scientology stands to earn from the playthings.

Though the church did not participate in the making of “Battlefield Earth,” it was included in the merchandising agreement, according to Church of Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder. Any deal for merchandising automatically includes Author Services, the agency that handles all of the late L. Ron Hubbard’s novels and stories. Scientology founder Hubbard was a sci-fi writer, though “Battlefield” is the first film made from his handiwork.

The toy assembly includes Strike Jets, Psychoblasters and Thunder Battletanks alongside 11-inch figures of Travolta as Terl, the villainous warlord. The Terl doll borrows Travolta voice snippets from the film, including these lines: “Exterminate all man animals at will,” “You wouldn’t last one day at the Academy,” “Man is an endangered species” and “Ratbastard.”

Travolta, an avowed Scientologist, actually made a brief appearance at the Toy Fair here to hawk the tiny toys. Though he wouldn’t talk to reporters, he posed for a few photos.

As for the money, a Trendmasters spokesman said these types of movie-driven toys can earn as much as $50 million in sales on average.

Exactly how much will the Church of Scientology recoup from the toys? No one seems to know.

Trendmasters, the company responsible for the line of toys, says its deal is strictly with Franchise Pictures.

Franchise doesn’t return phone calls.

Warner maintains that the studio is simply the distributor and had nothing to do with the structuring of any of the film’s merchandise pacts.

One thing is certain: Rinder told Daily Variety last summer that the church would use the money for a good cause — its charitable foundations.

— Dan Cox

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