LOS ANGELES -- Warner Bros. opened Friday the first of four 'studio stores' that it will debut by the end of the year to take advantage of the popularity of its characters, ranging from Bugs Bunny to Batman.
Warner, which is taking the wraps off its first store at the upscale Beverly Center shopping center, says most of the 2,500 items available will be available only through the stores.
'We want the stores to be one-of-a-kind, not only in design but also in product,' said Peter Starlett, director of retail for Warner Bros., the film studio that is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
'For the first time, consumers will have a direct opportunity to purchase products based on Warner Bros. films, characters and television series,' said Dan Romanelli, president of Warner Bros. consumer products unit.
Warner will treading in the steps of Walt Disney Co., which has opened about 100 of its Disney Stores over the past four years to establish one of the most successful recent new retail operations. Yearly sales at the stores, which are generally opened at successful suburban malls, are said to be in the range of $800 per square foot or more than double the national average.
The Disney Stores are also part of a corporate strategy to provide 'synergy' between various parts of Disney's other businesses, such as theme parks, movies and television. Two of the stores include 'Mickey's Kitchen' fast-food outlets, representing Disney's first venture into that business outside its theme parks.
Warner is no stranger to making money from its characters. Its 1989 movie 'Batman' not only sold $251 million of tickets domestically for the sixth best grossing film of all time, it also sold several hundred million dollars of 'Batman' merchandise.
The items in the Warner stores, which are designed to look like a studio back lot, will include animation cells, books, T-shirts, toys, posters, home furnishings, animation cells, games and toys. Life-size figures of Superman and Batman burst out of wall areas and small children are offered an underground crawl space featuring Bugs Bunny.
The stores will also offer an interactive video information system to teach customers about animation. And, like the Disney Stores, the Warner stores will offer a continuing montage via TV sets of clips from Warner movies and TV shows.
The stores will consist of 6,000 to 8,000 square feet. The next will open Oct. 4 at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumberg, Ill., followed by one at the Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Va., on Oct. 25 and the Danbury Mall in Danbury, Ct., on Nov. 1.