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Orlando, Las Vegas and more provide non-traditional extra lifeblood for movies

For almost as long as the history of cinema, movie-makers have sold products to go along with their films.

One of the highest-selling merchandise brands for a film is “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” released more than 80 years ago now. Over the years these brand extensions have been limited to a certain segment of films: Disney movies, of course, and a select few big adventure films with notable characters, such as “King Kong” and “Jurassic Park.”
As Hollywood evolves into more brand maintenance, though, we should expect to see more extensions beyond the typical fare.

Take one of this weekend’s releases, “The Fate of the Furious.” Back in 2001, “The Fast and the Furious” was a smaller action film focused on street racecar driving. Cut to 16 years later, and we’re on the eighth installment of a multibillion-dollar franchise. Universal Pictures has at least another two installments planned, so they must somehow maintain excitement and brand awareness.

While “The Fast and the Furious” franchise is a somewhat unconventional choice, it is now a ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, with the attraction opening up soon in Florida. When you think about it, “The Fast and the Furious” has all the makings of a fun attraction: It is fast, it is exciting and you can craft a small narrative around some brief plot conventions. An attraction is a major step for a franchise because it, at least for the time being, immortalizes it. The attraction is always running, meaning the film is always existing in the present. For Universal Studios, that is more and more people engaging with this film who will hopefully buy a ticket to the next two movies.

While Orlando attractions are certainly nothing new, another fascinating avenue for brand extensions is live stage shows. Of course, we have seen various successes of this, most notably with “The Lion King,” but going all the way to more modest hits such as “Kinky Boots” on Broadway. While Broadway is always a fun and classy choice, there is also a performance space that is often left unexplored, but has vast potential: Las Vegas.

This weekend, I was in Las Vegas and saw a show called “BAZ – Star Crossed Love,” which was based off the films of Baz Luhrmann, specifically “Moulin Rouge!,” “Romeo + Juliet,” and “The Great Gatsby.” While I’m not sure if the piece entirely worked — the three narratives were a bit jumbled — it was an interesting idea to take a beloved film director’s career and translate it into a full-blown stage production.

In a time where films are increasingly made to have a longer shelf life, this was a creative way to marry a director’s style — as Luhrmann is known for his over-the-top lushness — with a different medium. While there might not be the name recognition for Luhrmann like there is for other properties, “BAZ — Star Crossed Love” represents a willingness to explore different avenues of expanding the lifeblood of certain films, ones that you would not initially imagine to live on beyond the screen.

Hollywood films are becoming more and more expensive to produce — audiences are flocking to big budgeted event pictures to hand over their hard-earned cash. Studios are looking for other ways to expand their revenue streams besides the film itself, while also building hype for future installments. Rides and shows not only provide great entertainment to customers, but can also help maintain and build buzz, whether it be for the next “The Fast and the Furious,” or whatever film Luhrmann chooses to do next.

Erik Benjamin is a junior television, radio and film major. His column appears weekly in Pulp. He can be reached at ebenjami@syr.edu or on Twitter @embenjamin14.

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