Bugs, Batman are stars at new Warner Bros. store


At last Bugs Bunny is surrounded by carats.

When Warner Bros. opens its huge new studio store at the corner of 57th St. and Fifth Ave. in New York today, Bugs and company will share the intersection with Tiffany's, Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, and the equally chichi Bergdorf Goodman.

But don't worry, the bunny can hold his own. He's got a whole lotta store to back him up.

Three flights of store, to be exact, jam-packed with giant cartoon characters, interactive TVs, 10-foot superheroes and -- Holy Hollywood Production Values, Batman! -- a working Bat Plane.

Working Bat Plane? Yup. It's a stealth bomberesque affair with a 15-foot wingspan that sways above the crowd for 26 minutes of every half-hour. Then, suddenly, a giant video screen flashes images of Batman's arch enemies -- Catwoman, The Joker, etc. -- and the Bat Plane swerves toward 'em, spewing fire, laser beams and general mayhem. Four minutes later Batman wins, evil is vanquished, and shoppers are encouraged to resume consuming.

There's a lot to consume: 3,000 different items, from $1.75 Warner Bros. keychains to $17,000 original animation cels. In between, price-wise, you've got your baby-sized Daffy Duck T-shirts ($5.50), your adult turtlenecks embroidered with Wile E. Coyote ($24), your set of six Porky Pig golf balls ($26). That's not to mention almost an entire floor full of knickknacks for the home.

Explains Peter Starrett, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Retail, "We evaluated what was already out there in terms of other entertainment and character-driven stores such as Disney, Sesame Street, Hanna-Barbera . . . they were all targeted toward children. So we asked ourselves how we could create a store that would not get lost in the crowd?"

The answer: Appeal to an older audience.

All this merchandise and memorabilia considerably cheers a corner that lay fallow the last five years. After Manufacturers Hanover moved out in 1987, Daiichi Real Estate paid one of the highest per-square-foot price ever forked over for any commercial property in New York.

Profits at stores such as Warner Bros., analysts say, can average $600 per square foot.

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