In 1959, Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe of The Three Stooges launched their own company to oversee their films and licensed products. More than 40 years later, that company, Comedy Three Productions, is making a go of cataloging.
Comedy Three Productions bought Soitenly Stooges, a 12-year-old catalog of Stooges videos and Stooges-emblazoned T-shirts, coffee mugs, and the like, from defunct novelties cataloger Brainstorms in 1998. At the time, the catalog, which had licensed the rights to sell Stooges goods from Comedy Three, had annual sales of just $250,000. But this year, under the company still owned and operated by The Stooges’ heirs, the book is expected to exceed $2 million in sales on circulation of 1 million.
Expanding the merchandise offerings has been key to the catalog’s growth, says Earl Benjamin, president/CEO of Knuckleheads, the Glendale, CA-based Comedy Three Productions division that runs the catalog. This year Soitenly Stooges added products bearing the images of Betty Boop, Elvis Presley, James Dean, and The Marx Brothers, among others.
The catalog also plans to add Harley-Davidson merchandise, “because we’ve found it to be a classic and very popular brand,” Benjamin says. He’s considering adding T-shirts, caps, clocks, and collectibles featuring Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the Werewolf, as well as such action figures as Superman and Batman. “They’ve all tested well,” he says.
“Our biggest hurdle is to get the public to accept our catalog as a source of products besides Stooges merchandise,” Benjamin adds. “We walk a fine line to meet the requirements of our customers’ Stooges needs and the needs of customers who are interested in other classic characters.”
To build his house file, Benjamin is going beyond renting the lists of collectibles catalogs. The company also runs commericals four times a week during cable network American Movie Classics’ airings of Three Stooges shorts and in selected television markets that air The Stooges in syndication.
Moving forward, Benjamin says he’s aiming for 50% annual sales growth to coincide with circulation increases. The cataloger will mail 1 million books this year, followed by 1.5 million copies next year and 2 million-3 million in 2003. Benjamin is also discussing merchandise possibilities for Warner Brothers’ planned 2003 release of a Three Stooges movie.