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Star Wars mania

On Monday in the USA, toymaker Hasbro introduced a series of actionfigures, play sets, vehicles, and other toys based on STAR WARS: EPISODE I- THE PHANTOM MENACE, the prequel to the STAR WARS trilogy. Most Toys R Usstores and some FAO Schwarz and K-B Toys stores opened at 12:01 a.m. on May3, and within hours their stock was sold out. "It was unbelievable.Insane," says AWN's Heather Kenyon, who visited four stores in the LosAngeles area. "People were leaving with shopping carts filled up. It wasfrightening how rabid the fans were for these toys." Several reportsthroughout the country speak of crowds of 200-300 people with sales beingupwards of $100 per person. The big seller of the night was the line of12-inch dolls, which includes characters such as villain Darth Maul andspace creature Jar Jar Binks. The action figure for Mace Windu, who isplayed by Samuel L. Jackson, sold out almost immediately. With this new toyline, Hasbro has hopes of catching Barbie maker, Mattel, the number oneseller of toys. Hasbro, based in the Providence suburb of Pawtucket,reported a record $668.4 million in revenues in the first quarter of theyear -- a 38 percent increase from the same period a year ago. Mattel,headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., reported first-quarter sales of $692.1million, down 2 percent. With two more STAR WARS movies planned over thenext few years and Hasbro holding a 10-year licensing agreement, analystssay the toymaker could see $5 billion in STAR WARS spinoff sales over thenext decade. Hasbro has agreed to pay about $600 million in advances onroyalties to Lucas in installments over nine years. That amount includesadvances promised to Lucas by Lewis Galoob Toys, which was bought by Hasbrolast year. . . MORE STAR WARS MANIA. An Internet security firm is warningthat the popularity of the 30-megabyte trailer for the new STAR WARS film,which set an Internet record with over 3.5 million downloads in its firstfive days on-line, could cause corporate America's e-mail to come to agrinding halt. The security firm, Allegro of Dayton, Ohio, told the LOSANGELES DAILY NEWS if six or seven people in a company start sending itaround the office, it starts to chew up the server space, slowing overallproductivity.