After 60 years, New York’s Archie Comic Publications, the company that created the Riverdale crew, Josie and the Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, has decided to bring property development in-house by forming entertainment arm Archie Entertainment. The problem hasn’t necessarily been the success of the properties themselves, but the breadth of categories that can be explored and the company’s ability to control development. ‘Josie and the Pussycats [which only racked up US$14.3 million in its 40-day run in the U.S.] didn’t do as well as it could have because of its PG-13 rating,’ explains Michael Silberkleit, who will be heading up the new division with Richard Goldwater. Silberkleit argues that most fans of any Archie brand are under the age of 13, but Universal, which put up the money for the project, was in charge of the production and wanted to target an older demo.
Sabrina, on the other hand, has done extremely well under the guidance of Viacom and Viacom Consumer Products. The live-action show is rated number one in its time period in nine markets worldwide, including the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and France, and the animated version is on top in France, Germany and the U.K. Silberkleit would like to see the other Archie brands match that level of success. He and Goldwater will still be looking for partners to help finance and develop projects, but the in-house production unit will retain control of ancillary rights to the properties.
The latest news in Riverdale is an agreement with a well-known music developer and promoter to create a live Archie band. An Archie movie is also on deck, but is still very early in development. The big push will be the music, says Silberkleit, although TV is on the slate for when the band and the movie are further along. Videos, stage shows, video games, branded foods and fun centers are other areas the company is considering.