From Terminator to Titanic, Hollywood memories are on the auction block this week in Dallas

Planet Hollywood is selling more than 1,000 items of movie memorabilia – and Heritage Auctions is handling the sale.

By Jerome Weeks, KERA NewsMarch 22, 2024 10:01 am, , ,

From KERA News:

It’s like a vast department store selling fame and trivia. Through March 24, more than 1,600 items of Hollywood history are up for auction online – and live in Dallas. What’s being sold is an assortment of everything from design sketches and prop swords to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leather jacket from Terminator 2.

All of this comes from the restaurant chain, Planet Hollywood. The Dallas-based firm, Heritage Auctions, is handling the sale.

Just leafing through Heritage’s 700-page auction catalog – or scrolling through its website – can be overwhelming. Movie memories clash with behind-the-scene details.

When Charlton Heston in the 1956 Biblical blockbuster, The Ten Commandments, hefted those two iconic stone tablets, they were an easy lift: They’re made of wood covered in fiberglass. (Still pricey, though. They sold Wednesday at Heritage for $55,000.)

The Los Angeles hellscape we see in Blade Runner was actually an intricate, 8 foot by three-and-a-half foot block of rigid polyfoam with carved, tiny brass buildings and fiber optic cables for the street lights.

And over here are the deck chairs from the film, Titanic – the actual movie deck chairs re-arranged, of course, in neat groups of four.

Titanic has a huge presence in the auction with dozens of the doomed (movie) ship’s costumes, prop dishes, doors, silverware and luggage pieces for sale. There’s even the wood panel that Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio cling to in the icy water at the film’s end.

The starting bid for that item is $40,000, one of the highest in the catalog.

Brian Chanes is the senior director of Hollywood and entertainment at Heritage. He combed through the Florida warehouses where Planet Hollywood stored these things for years. It took him two months to curate the selection.

Thomas Noel / Heritage Auctions

Model standing in front of several Marilyn Monroe-related costumes auctioned in Dallas this week. This preview exhibition of some of the Planet Hollywood offerings was presented by Heritage in Los Angeles. Thed ress on the right, from the film "Let's Make Love," sold Wednesday for $137,500.

“I know the word gets bandied about too often,” Chanes said. “But it is a once-in-a-lifetime scenario because they were an institutional collector. So they had deep pockets. They could scour the earth to find the best of the best.”

Chanes is familiar with the collection because, only a few years ago, he was with Profiles in History, an LA auction house. He helped to sell some of these items to Planet Hollywood.

The restaurant chain launched in 1991, and Robert Earl, the CEO of Hard Rock Cafe, was brought in because of his experience with themed restaurants and with capitalizing on pop culture fame.

In an online interview with Heritage director of communications Robert Wilonsky, Earl explained Planet Hollywood’s basic appeal: “Unless you were in LA or possibly New York, you never saw the real celebrity. You didn’t have an involvement in any extension of the movie or their lives. And we afforded that.”

In short, the restaurant chain wasn’t really about the food. It was about holding out the possibility ordinary people could chill with movie stars. Or just get up-close to something they once wore on screen.

In the ‘90s, Planet Hollywood expanded aggressively. In 1993, its New York location opened with appearances by the company’s trio of early, big-name investors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. The event attracted the klieg lights, press coverage and street-filling crowds that major Hollywood releases used to muster – once upon a time.

By 1999, Planet Hollywood had 80 locations worldwide. It had resorts, freestanding stores, hotels and a Las Vegas casino.

Thomas Noel / Heritage Auctions

Costumes and props from "Titanic" (1997) displayed by Heritage Auctions in its Beverly Hills location in the weeks before the auction.

But its stock price that same year was one dollar. The firm eventually filed for bankruptcy – twice.

Critics argued that the restaurant business is dependent on repeat customers. Once people realized the odds of them actually meeting A-list celebrities were low, the restaurant’s food and service weren’t enough to draw them back. One of Planet Hollywood’s signature dishes did become famous (or infamous) as a children’s item: chicken tenders covered in Cap’n Crunch cereal.

Currently, Planet Hollywood is down to only a handful of restaurants and hotels, including the Las Vegas casino.

Which is why all those props and costumes ended up in Florida warehouses. Each Planet Hollywood had the equivalent of a small movie museum inside. And museum artifacts cost money to maintain.

Many items – from costumes and posters to set miniatures and suits of armor – are as complex and delicate as works of art. As if to underscore the point – ironically, at least – the auction includes what may be the most expensive ‘fake’ Mona Lisa around: The printed and framed copy was created for the film, The Da Vinci Code. Starting bid: $7,500.

Heritage’s Brian Chanes explained that it took “a tremendous amount of effort and resources just to house the memorabilia and to make sure it was secure.”

Instead, these days, Planet Hollywood locations are lined with video screens.

“Planet Hollywood is going more for the digital experience,” said Chanes. ”This way, it’s more streamlined.”

Because of the initial investments of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis, it’s no surprise that much of the auction catalog features paraphernalia from their films: Terminator, Rambo, Rocky, Die Hard.

Indiana Jones’ bullwhip from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Heritage Auctions / HA.Com

But Chanes said this concentration can also be explained by timing and age. People who grew up with those films are now old enough – and have enough money – to be collectors. More than the memorable items from classic-era Hollywood that are here – Marilyn Monroe’s dresses, Kirk Douglas’ “gladiator shorts” from Spartacus – it’s the action-fantasy hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s that fill up much of the inventory: Star Wars, RoboCop, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Batman, Jurassic Park.

Fond childhood memories may also explain the starting bid of $2,000 for the little captain’s costume that Kermit the Frog wore in the 1996 film, Muppet Treasure Island.

Not everything on sale at Heritage Auctions is as historic or iconic as the prop axe Jack Nicholson wielded in The Shining. It sold Wednesday for $125,000. Nor do they all have stratospheric starting bids. Heritage wants to encourage the collecting habit among beginners, so there are reams of relatively low-cost items: a Tom Cruise-autographed gavel from A Few Good Men, the Union Jack flag from Titanic, toys from, well, Toys.

So – who’d like John Belushi’s high school yearbooks? They sold Wednesday for $656.25

Or how about a group of six “stunt rocks” (made of styrofoam and rubber) – from Braveheart?

The starting bid for those is $500.

Watch the live auction each day through Sunday at Heritage Auctions here.

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