'Star Wars' prequel sets merchandising record in Thailand

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BANGKOK--George Lucas' first ``Star Wars'' prequel is set to break a record for merchandising tie-ins in Thailand, according to executives at Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Pizza Hut Marketing Director Veena Onjarit says the chain normally orders 100,000 toys and other merchandise for film promotions. For "Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace," the chain ordered 250,000 items, almost all of which were gone two weeks after the promotion began.

While a third of customers buy a toy for the average movie with a merchandise tie-in, for "The Phantom Menace" the figure is well over 50%. The actual figure is probably closer to 100%, says Ms. Onjarit, because customers can buy up to four items with each meal.

Shopping malls, department stores and fast-food outlets across Bangkok and throughout Thailand are awash with "Star Wars" paraphernalia in the biggest marketing blitz ever seenhere.

"The Phantom Menace" opened June 18 and in its three-day opening weekend brought in a record $1.18 million. At the end of the first week, the figure had climbed to $1.65 million.

With the main line of toys no longer being produced, Pizza Hut moved up a "Star Wars" jigsaw puzzle promotion.

Executives at Pizza Hut and KFC said they would not know the effect of the promotions on their food and beverage sales until the promotions end in July. When the promotions began, they were predicting a boost of 10% in sales.

Pepsi-Cola Thailand's Marketing Director Charlie Jitcharoongphorn, however, said that, "given the country's macro-economic problems," the promotions have not led to a noticeable increase in sales of Pepsi.

He adds the company is nevertheless pleased with the promotion as it helps to build brand-awareness among Pepsi's target audience of teenagers and young adults.

Local Twentieth-Century Fox executive Henry Tran says it is too early to tell if "The Phantom Menace" will out-perform the record $5.85 million in gross domestic receipts for last year's "Titanic."

Copyright June 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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