Producers playing cards

Greetings offers warm hello to Hatchery

Looking to expand its presence in the entertainment world, American Greetings Corp. has acquired a stake in the Hatchery, the production and marketing company founded last year by Margaret Loesch and Bruce Stein.

Under the new partnership, announced Thursday by Loesch, Stein and American Greetings prexy-chief operating officer Jeffrey Weiss, the Hatchery will exploit some of the greeting card company’s franchises and vice versa.

“We will help them build out some of their properties, and we will bring things to them,” said Loesch, who was formerly CEO of Hallmark’s Crown Media.

American Greetings has been aggressively relaunching some of its long-neglected properties (such as Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears) over the past two years and recently signed Nickelodeon’s consumer products division to bring back its Holly Hobbie character.

“We’re excited about taking content off our greeting cards and developing them into broader entertainment,” Weiss said. “This will help by taking what we create every day and pairing it with a great creative organization.”

At the Hatchery, American Greetings hopes to exploit the Twisted Whiskers property and preschool-oriented Maryoku Yummy line into film, TV, homevideo, videogames, new media and consumer products.

“In this combination, the Hatchery will serve as a Hollywood portal for American Greetings,” said Stein, a former Mattel prexy.

Loesch and Stein, meanwhile, are also looking at ways to take advantage of the American Greetings relationship with properties they have been working with, including a series of direct-to-video features from “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine. That includes utilizing American Greetings’ 600 card shops and 35,000 retail card departments in North America.

“They also have tremendous expertise in Internet marketing through their companies, like Blue Mountain greeting cards, and they even have a ringtone business,” Stein said. “A lot of these are aspects of marketing that are imperative to properly launch a property.”

In its first year and a half of existence, the Hatchery has already produced the feature “Benji: Off the Leash,” comedy gamer “Balderdash,” action series “Young Blades” and CGI educational skein “Zula Patrol.” Beyond the Stine videos, company is also developing feature films based on the book series “Sammy Keyes” and “Blast Off Boy.”

Mandalay Entertainment co-owns the Hatchery and was a founding investor; Mandalay’s Peter Guber and Paul Schaeffer sit on the company’s board. Emmy-winning scribe-producer Dan Angel also partners with Loesch and Stein at the Hatchery.

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