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August 15, 2001 02:10pm
Playboy, "Mortal Kombat" Producer Form Movie Venture
Source: Reuters
by: Bob Tourtellotte

(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Playboy Enterprises Inc. and Larry Kasanoff's Threshold Entertainment, producer of the ``Mortal Kombat'' action movies, teamed up on Wednesday to make mainstream feature films that extend the Playboy brand into a new arena.

The deal marks a second, recent move by Playboy to leverage its name, known around the world as a symbol of adult entertainment, into new arenas beyond magazine publishing, video production and soft-core, erotic cable TV channels.

``The power of our brand, worldwide, I think will work so well that this hopefully will be a very successful move for us,'' said Richard Rosenzweig, ``And Larry really understand brand extension.''

Kasanoff, chairman and chief executive of Threshold, is perhaps best-known for making the male-targeted ``Mortal Kombat'' martial arts films, as well as managing entertainment brands like ``Duke Nukem,'' ``GI Joe,'' and ``Hellraiser'', among others.

Beyond movies and video games, Threshold has leveraged those entertainment products into ancillary arenas, such as live stage shows.

The Playboy alliance, however, will focus on romantic comedy films budgeted around $25 million and aimed at men and women who aspire to copy the kind of carefree lifestyle Hugh Hefner has epitomized since founding Playboy magazine in 1953.

``The movies are not what you'd expect to see from us since we've mostly made action,'' Kasanoff told Reuters. ``You know, the Playboy lifestyle have been very aspirational to a lot of people .... It's a fun, classy lifestyle.''

Kasanoff said the movies will be ``broad comedies'' and could carry PG-13 ratings, so they will not necessarily be the style of adult entertainment for which Playboy is known.

The deal calls for the alliance to produce two movies initially, tentatively called ``A Night at the Playboy Mansion'' and ``Playmate of the Year''.

Kasanoff said ``Night at the Playboy Mansion'' revolves around two guys trying to sneak into a party at Hef's home.

Rosenzweig noted the deal is non-exclusive, meaning the company is open to pursuing film deals with other filmmakers and because it involves raising independent and studio money to fund the movies, Playboy's financial risk is limited.

Indeed, for Playboy the movie deal revolves around using the wealth of lifestyle content from its magazines, videos and Web site -- as well as the Playboy name -- around which to develop, produce and promote films.

The movies, too, serve as a promotional tool for the magazines, videos and cable channels for people interested in the Playboy lifestyle.

The moviemaking plan is not the first for Playboy because the company has produced movies ranging from director Roman Polanski's ``Macbeth'' in 1971 to Monty Python's ``And Now For Something Completely Different.'' It also has a long history of producing mass media products, dating back to the classic syndicated TV series, ``Playboy's Penthouse.''

Playboy also has produced made-for-TV movies for broadcast networks and still makes videos featuring Playboy Playmates.

Over the years, fictional stories pulled from the magazine's pages have also been made into movies, like Ray Bradbury's ``Fahrenheit 451'' and Cameron Crowe's ``Fast Times at Ridgemont High.''

But the feature film plan is a first for the Alta Loma label, which has been confined mainly to made-for-TV productions.

The feature film deal follows Playboy's July acquisition of three, hard-core adult entertainment TV channels from Van Nuys, California-based Vivid Video. By purchasing the three channels -- Vivid TV, the Hot Network and Hot Zone -- Playboy hopes to stem audience erosion from its stable of softer, erotica channels: Playboy TV and two Spice channels.

On Wall Street, Playboy shares gained 10 cents to close at $14.40 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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