Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hollywood Meltdown Part 2

In the 1998 movie You've Got Mail, the character of Kathleen Kelly owns a small bookstore called The Shop Around the Corner. The store, which she inherited from her mother, had been part of the community for years until a large chain bookstore came in with flashy signs, cheaper prices, and a well know brand. At first she kept a positive attitude, explaining that the neighborhood was big enough for both book stores. Unfortunately, sales plummeted, and patrons chose to shop at the new, trendy Fox Books. Soon she realized that she couldn't compete, and closed up shop for good.

The beginning of this scenario is strikingly similar to what is happening on Hollywood boulevard. Madame Tussaud's wax museum has opened up down the street from the Hollywood Wax Museum, and people who care about such things are wondering if this new development will spell the end for the older of the two. I thought that I would weigh in on the subject.

When I first heard that Madame Tussaud's was moving to Hollywood, I immediately imagined it as the end for the Hollywood Wax Museum. I saw the exact same story playing out here, that played out in You've Got Mail. The Walmart syndrome was going to ruin a Hollywood landmark. How could it possibly compete with an international mega-entertainment company? And when a recent Los Angeles Times article posed the same question, I tried to analyse the situation objectively. Without coming to a conclusion, I came up with some pros and cons for the wax museum's outlook, some of which the L.A. Times also noticed;

-The Hollywood Wax museum has lower overhead, and could withstand a small drop in attendance.
-It is one of three wax museums in the H.W.M. family, and has a growing brand.
-Lower admission price.
-Its partnership with the Guinness World Records Museum across the street.
-Its kitsch appeal.
-Madame Tussaud's already has a Vegas location and Vegas gets an enormous number of visitors from Southern California. It is possible they may cannibalize their own patrons. (More of a negative for M.T.)
-Other high tourist areas, such as Niagara Falls, have been able to have multiple wax museums thrive.

-Less accurate looking figures.
-Less capital to make necessary improvements.
-Further away from the Chinese theater.
-Not nearly as recognized as Madame Tussaud's.
-What is old is rarely in fashion, and the new will always be a draw.

All of these factors will lead to an as of yet unknown outcome. Hopefully this outcome will be the peaceful coexistence of the two museums, and a renewed interest in the wax figure as an art form. Both museums have something to offer Hollywood Boulevard, and I would not discourage anyone from visiting Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, but I would also encourage them to visit the Hollywood Wax Museum as well.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hollywood Meltdown part 1

"We are not a wax museum. We are an attraction. I don't want us to be mentioned in the same breath as a wax museum."
-Adrian Jones, General Manager of Madame Tussaud's Hollywood

Adrian Jones must be the most frequently disappointed person in the world. Madame Tussuad's may call itself an attraction, but that does not change the fact that it is just a wax museum; a great wax museum, but a wax museum non the less. You buy you ticket, walk around, and take pictures of yourself with wax figures of famous men and women. Sounds like a wax museum to me.

Jones may actually be commenting on the apparent higher quality of Madame Tussaud's wax figures compared to other, less monetarily fortunate wax museums; or maybe the slight difference of how the figures are out in the open, instead of displayed in intricate tableaux, but a house is still a house no matter how the furniture inside it is arranged. It bothers me that the company that put wax museums on the map is so quick to distance itself from that very industry. There could be several reasons for this attitude;

1. Madame Tussaud's wants to portray itself as a world class entertainment venue that is far above the competition.

2. Wax museums are in decline, and this rebranding separates it from the unfortunate reputation wax museums have on the western conscious.

Whatever the reason, it is unfortunate that they need to put down the very industry they helped create. An even bigger concern is the affect it will have on the Hollywood Wax Museum that is just down the street. Spoony Singh's original wax museum doesn't have the name recognition that Madame Tussaud's does, and the neighborhood may not be able to handle two wax museums that are so closely related in theme, but that's a story for another day.

Next time: Will the Hollywood Wax Museum survive?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Historical West Wax Museum- Belle Starr


This scene from the old Historical West Wax Museum in Colorado Springs, shows famous female outlaw Belle Starr on her horse. Born in Missouri, she became one of the most popular women outlaws of her time. She robbed, stole, rustled, and hid other outlaws from the law. Eventually she was caught and served time in prison. Unfortunately, her criminal ways led her to a violent demise when she was shot to death by unknown assailants just shy of her 41st birthday.

Belle Starr sitting side saddle on her horse. It appears that her association with the wrong men led to her unlawful behavior. She was classically trained in piano, and attended private school. Only Belle's head is made of wax. The hands and body are covered, leading to a less expensive figure.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Potter's Wax Museum- Edward the Black Prince


The eldest son of King Edward the III, Prince Edward was called the black prince, not for any negative reason, but for the black armor he wore. He was noted for being kind, and generous, but never became king because of an early death at the age of 46.

A close up shot of the prince in his armor.

Visit the Potter's Wax Museum's website here.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Christus Gardens- Exterior

Although Christus Gardens closed last year after 49 years of operation, there appears to be a new lease on life for the old building. Plans are now underway to reopen the complex as the Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens. Though not Christus Gardens, the theme and atmosphere seems to be the same as the original. According to a news article, the old wax figures were sold to a Christian television channel, which means the new tableaux of Christ's life should be composed on new figures!

The building is so beautiful, and the mid century style and design is too cool to be demolished for condominiums. The recession caused those plans to fall through, and now the building will live on for at least the near future.

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