AMC Sponsors Fashion-Based Mall Tour

American Movie Classics this week plans to kick off a 12-city mall tour that uses fashion shows to promote the network's movies and original programming.

Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Jones-an AMC on-air host for the past 15 years-will appear at each stop on the "Fashion in Film" tour, starting this Wednesday (March 28) at the Natick Mall in Boston.

"We're very fortunate that Shirley is going to participate in the tour, not just because she's a star, but because she still has an extensive touring schedule," said AMC executive vice president of distribution and affiliate marketing Kim Martin.

Lifetime Television, meanwhile, was set to launch its first mall tour last Saturday (March 24). Backed by such leading national brands as Cover Girl, Folgers CaféLatte, Pampers and Physique, the "Experience of a Lifetime" tour will offer interactive games and information on home, health, beauty and personal finance.

Cable affiliates such as AT&T Broadband and Comcast Corp. are sponsoring the local stops along Lifetime's 12-city tour.

For its part, AMC proffered a sneak preview of its fashion show last week in New York, where models donned replicas of such famous film fashions as the dress Grace Kelly wore in Rear Window.

Accompanying the fashions are video clips from several classic films, including The Music Man, in which Jones played Marion the Librarian. In one scene, Jones said last week, the gown she wore reflected the film's rural Iowa morals.

"What it didn't reflect was the fact that I was very, very pregnant" during the filming, said Jones. The fashion designer had to fit her with a tight corset to help hide her growing state, she said.

AMC executives hope these and other stories will encourage a new generation of viewers to explore old films and give lovers of classic movies another reason to revisit their favorites.

The fashion tour was created to help reinforce the network's new tagline, "Great movies and the stories behind them," said Mark Juris, AMC's recently promoted general manager.

"It's not just our new tagline, but it's behind everything we do," he said.

Although only 12 cable systems will participate in the mall tour, over 600 AMC affiliates have signed on for a national consumer contest tied to the "Great Movies" theme. Entrants are asked to record a two-minute tape that tells the story behind a fan's most memorable film and how it influenced their lives.

Martin relayed a recent tale in which a classic movie touched the lives of her own family. When one of her two daughters was sick, the other told Martin, "you just need to give her a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down"-a phrase redolent of Mary Poppins.

In the consumer contest, 20 movie fans will win a trip to Los Angeles along with $1,000 in spending money good toward AMC's first live, on-air auction, tentatively scheduled for July. About half the items at auction are expected to fetch under $1,000.

"We really want them to walk away with something at auction," AMC director of marketing Jacqueline Majers said.

Participating affiliates have agreed to promote the contest by running cross-channel spots, beginning April 1. In return, each affiliate will receive a camcorder they can donate to a local public-affairs program.

Also, five executives at participating cable affiliates will win a trip for two to New York, where they can attend an event at either Radio City Music Hall or Madison Square Garden, both owned by AMC parent Cablevision Systems Corp.

The 12 affiliates involved in AMC's mall tour will also receive specially equipped interactive kiosks that will allow fans to tape their favorite movie memories on the spot for instant entry into the consumer contest. The kiosk includes an introductory video in which other movie lovers share their stories. In one, a King & I
fan tells how her boyfriend shaved his head to remind her of Yul Brynner, the film's star.

Adorning either side of the kiosk is an enclosed compartment that contains actual dresses worn at Academy Awards ceremonies.

AMC publicists said the network had no trouble lining up malls to participate in the tour and had to turn away many venues that could not fit into the schedule. Retailers generally benefit from the additional floor traffic drawn by a cable programmer's live events, especially when big-name stars are involved.