Back to Main Press Page
Los Angeles Daily News
Tuesday, August 15, 2000
By Robert Monroe
NORTH HOLLYWOOD -- Even as a kid, Jason Labowitz was very particular
about how he played with his "Star Wars" action figures: half
were drafted into battle on the floor of his Van Nuys home, half
stayed in the original packaging.
They'll be worth something some day, the 8-year-old would say.
Now Labowitz and his brother, Aaron, cater to kindred spirits
out of a North Hollywood warehouse, cashing in on the evergreen
market for "Star Wars" toys and hot-and-cold markets for those
tied to other movies. What they sell are all manner of action
figures from "Star Trek" to "Farscape," a new Sci-Fi Channel
They need no proof action figures are worth something to lots of
people. Their online toy retailing business, Entertainment Earth,
cleared $1.5 million in sales last year and they expect to double
that this year.
"We're not a 'dealer,' we're not a scalper," said Aaron
Labowitz, 32, distinguishing entertainmentearth.com from the
collectibles market. "If it's available now, we'll sell it now at
a regular retail price."
That down-to-earth philosophy has made them a force to be
reckoned with. They say action figure maker Hasbro rates them among
the biggest sellers of its "Star Wars"-themed toys, behind only a
half-dozen giant retailers such as Toys 'R' Us and Wal-Mart. Hasbro
officials could not be reached to confirm that Thursday.
And their marketing and sales strategy should spell success,
analysts say. They sell only online and advertise mostly through
"Star Wars" fan Web sites, though they make a few appearances at
fan conventions. They offer a guarantee that the toys, and, of
course, their packaging, will be in mint condition when delivered.
Aaron Labowitz said Entertainment Earth tends to draw older
customers, collectors looking to fill out their ensembles of
figures related to, say, the movie "Austin Powers," the company's
second hottest seller.
"Parents tend to go to e-Toys," said Aaron, now a Granada
It's the collectors of the world that could keep Entertainment
Earth afloat, said Melissa Williams, an analyst with Gerard Klauer
Mattison Co. Their penchant remains unquenched even in the absence
of new "Star Wars" movies, progenitors of 75 percent of
Entertainment Earth's business.
"It's a fad-driven business," Williams said. "(But) if you
target the market properly, then sales are very stable."
The distinction is fine between selling to collectors and
selling collector's items. Sticking to the retail price keeps the
Labowitzes on one side of the fence though some of their items fall
somewhere in between.
From them, you can buy the $30 light saber that makes lights and
sounds or the $1,500 exact replica light saber. You can buy a
$4,000 life-size replica of Darth Vader or a $1,000 replica of the
Terminator's metallic head. An entire Terminator skeleton is coming
Some of the items still in Entertainment Earth's stock weren't
collectors items until they had aged a bit. For example, you can
buy, for $57.99, a Millennium Falcon produced by Kenner in 1995
that most retailers don't sell anymore.
The brothers started the business in 1996 out of their garage
with $9,000 worth of action figures. Now they have seven employees
and a 17,000-square-foot office and warehouse decorated to the hilt
with "Star Wars" movie posters.
Through it all, none of Jason Labowitz's own 700- to 800-piece
collection of mini Luke Skywalkers and Darth Vaders was depleted to
"It never even crossed my mind," said the 30-year-old Sherman
Oaks resident. "Collectors aren't in it to sell. They're in it to
enjoy the collection."