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Hot Topic was our hero. I know those aren’t words that are uttered all that frequently, but let me take you in Doc Brown’s DeLorean for a moment. Circa 2000 or 2001 when Ghostbusters was almost completely off the radar, we considered ourselves lucky the moment that official merchandise was being released through Hot Topic in the form of a red “ringer” t-shirt and a hoodie. It was the most we had been enticed with since Extreme Ghostbusters, and we loved every minute of it (you’ll also recall that there was a cell phone cover for the candy bar Nokia phone of choice released at the same time). That red ringer shirt was a big deal, and the message boards were lit up with fans trying to track one down (long before the internet Hot Topic site made things accessible).

Here’s the scary part… I still have that t-shirt. In fact, in complete contrast to 2001, I now have enough Ghostbusters t-shirts that I could probably wear a different one every day for two weeks straight. That’s a lot of damn Ghostbusters t-shirts, and many of them (especially the older ones including the aforementioned “red ringer”) are ugly as sin. I never wear 80% of them.

Why does this come up? Why is Troy waxing semantics about t-shirts? I moved for what seems like the fiftieth time out here in Los Angeles last June and I sat, looking at the stack of Ghostbusters t-shirts in front of me and actually faced a dilemma that “Me of 2001” would never have dreamed of… should I give a few of these to Goodwill?

Aside from my GB Video Game promo shirt and my 25th Anniversary Logo shirt, I never wear them. In fact a few of them were only purchased because of the excitement that I finally had the ability to buy Ghostbusters shirts again. So why am I hanging on to several of these shirts? Nostalgia? Not really, unless I was nostalgic for the “I’ve Been Slimed” shirt that I had as a kid (that, coincidentally you can now buy again from the GBFans.com store). I’m telling you, I could donate a handful of these and before you knew it, you’d see an army of homeless dudes in Santa Monica rocking the No-Ghost logo.

Maybe that’s indicative of how readily available the shirts are now; I can buy a variety of shirts from a variety of places. And, that being the case, maybe the allure of holding onto the shirts from nearing ten years ago had lost its luster. As B.B. once famously said, maybe the thrill is gone? I’m curious if anyone else out there has gone through this transition or faced a similar dilemma?

As an aside, I’d like to thank everyone for their comments and questions following what was just the introductory column of The Private Sector. I figured 9/10ths of folks would be scratching their heads saying, “Net who? That’s a lame name for a lame guy.” (It is, and I am). I’m going to run one question per week with a short answer that hopefully everyone will benefit from… this week’s question comes from “Bennythegeek”, who – in a great letter asks:

“We all know that everyone involved in getting the project running have all said ‘maybe, possibly, it will happen, 2010 start date, 2011 release date & need a production number.’ How can we all sit here and just accept what we’re being told about Sony Pictures not greenlighting the project? Truth be told, ever since the first hints of a new GB video game the GB merch business (ie. figures, RGB box set, ect.) has been booming! But why would they approve it all if Sony had no intentions of doing a third film? Think about it, man! What’s the best way to get a huge fanbase for your film BEFORE it hits the screen?”

Benny, good point – here’s the scoop. The term “greenlight” is thrown around outside of Hollywood quite a bit as the term for “go ahead”. Makes sense – “I just got the greenlight from the wife to play poker tonight”, right? But in reality, here in LaLa Land, it’s a little different. The greenlight isn’t as informal as a “blessing” or “permission.” The greenlight is the term for the official moment that all pieces are in place for the actual physical production of a film to start (that’s also when the majority of the funding is provided by the studio or by the financial backer to start spending money, hence Dan Aykroyd’s quip several weeks ago). Sony is well aware that a third Ghostbusters movie is in pre-production, in fact – they’re the ones that put in the order and approved the new screenwriters to be commissioned to write the film. They have every intention of making another film – as long as all of the proverbial ducks are in a row (and committed to marching in step). So there’s no deception or curtain-pulling involved. Once all parties (including the studio) are happy with the screenplay, once agreements are put into place for key roles including the directors, lead actors, etc., and (without going too far into the business side of things) a very specific line-itemized budget has been submitted and approved, a movie receives the greenlight and (generally) principal photography starts very quickly after that. Sometimes productions WILL have all the pieces in place, but the studio doesn’t want to commit to the financial obligation – and the movie will sit in a purgatory state, infinitely waiting for “the greenlight.”

That said, it’s a pretty safe bet that licensing and merchandising is working very closely with the marketing departments at Sony on a very specific strategy to increase awareness. None of these home video releases, toy releases, etc. is coincidence. These things are planned years in advance… I pause for dramatic tension on this ominous note because I want to tease that there’s someone, wearing a very nice suit, sitting in a very nice desk chair, that knows exactly what’s in store for us all over the course of the next couple years. Think about that…

Whew. That’s all the space the guys are kind enough to give me this week, as always keep your thoughts and questions coming to me at netsolo [at] aol dot com and here in the comments sections of the respective sites. See you next week!

[The Private Sector is a weekly syndicated column written by Troy Benjamin presented every Wednesday on Proton Charging, GB Fans, and Ghostbusters.net as an op-ed look at the goings on in the world of the Ghostbusters franchise.]

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