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MGM LIGHTS OWN STORE STUDIO PROTOTYPE FUN WITHOUT GLITZ OF COMPETITORS DISNEY, WARNER

By Published on .

SANTA MONICA, Calif.-Toto, I don't think we're at the Disney Store anymore.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the Hollywood movie studio responsible for the likes of "The Wizard of Oz," "Dr. Zhivago," and "Blown Away" (they can't all be classics, now can they?), is following Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. down retail's yellow brick road by opening a studio store.

Sales have exceeded expectations since the shop opened here Dec. 8, though the store seems squirreled away within the complex that houses the studio's worldwide headquarters, MGM Plaza.

An ad campaign from Sagon-Phior Group, North Hollywood, and aggressive MGM public relations, done in-house, got the word out for the launch. A banner outside the plaza parking garage communicates the store's existence to passersby.

The store's neighbors include a gym and food court that mostly service MGM employees. So does the store, for that matter. But this first MGM Studio Store is a prototype for future shops. MGM will determine expansion plans based on this location's first year of results.

Like the Disney and Warner Bros. stores, the MGM outlet helps to promote the studio's films and position the company as an entertainment brand. Unlike its competitors, MGM does so without the glitz-and the space.

The store is just 1,200-square feet, so the space is cozy and crammed with stuff, but comfortably so. Near the entrance a visitor can find a listing of MGM and United Artists movies in production.

Trailers for recent MGM releases "Speechless" and "Stargate" flash across six video screens embedded in the wall behind the cash register. Logos for those movies grace caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee cups and pens in all styles and colors.

MGM's retail philosophy was to create a version of its company store for the outside world. So now you, too, can wear the same leather jacket MGM Chairman Frank Mancuso wears (for a mere $1,500) or write, twirl or lose the same kind of pen Mr. Mancuso uses to green light scripts or slash budgets.

You can also purchase tools of the trade, like gaffing tape, dulling spray and No. 1 and No. 2 grip clips. MGM store employees insist such stuff actually sells and isn't merely for show.

Sprinkled throughout the store is an assortment of neat and odd things, not all for sale. Like the display cases containing the 1965 Oscar "Dr. Zhivago" received for best score or Susan Sarandon's waitress costume from "Thelma & Louise." Or coffee cups emblazoned with classic Hollywood lines like "Let's do lunch," "Call my agent," or "Have my people call your people." And even a highlighter shaped like the pyramids in "Stargate."

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