Abel Martinez of Pico Rivera sifts through bins of goods while shopping… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
When the upcoming comedy "The Hangover Part III" wrapped production in January, Warner Bros. was left with tons of used plywood, joists, furniture, faux brick and other materials from the film set.
But instead of hauling the leftovers to the landfill, the studio donated the items — enough to fill 10 truckloads — to the charitable organization Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, to be sold in Habitat's stores in Gardena and Norwalk. The proceeds supported the organization's mission of building and renovating homes for the needy.
"The crews take pride in what they've built, so if we're able to salvage the materials and give them another use, everyone feels good about that," said Mike Slavich, director of sustainability for Warner Bros. Entertainment. The studio last month supplied Habitat's stores with more than 30 rolls of carpet and linoleum flooring from the set of the CBS TV show "The Mentalist."
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Such donations from Warner and other studios have become a big source of revenue for Habitat's ReStore outlets. The stores, open to the public, are a cross between Home Depot and Goodwill. They sell overstocked, used and discontinued building materials, appliances, furniture and other household items donated by local manufacturers, stores, contractors, film studios and TV producers of such shows as "The Big Bang Theory," "2 Broke Girls" and "Mike & Molly."
Habitat generated some $700,000 in revenue last year from merchandise donated by studios and film producers, making the entertainment industry one of the single largest sources of revenue for the Habitat stores. An additional $100,000 in donated materials was used by Habitat to build or renovate homes.
"The entertainment industry is one of our largest sources of donations and it continues to grow," said Karen Moore, donations acquisitions manager for the organization. "We're happy to create an outlet for these items to be used and recycled. It has become a key source of funding for us."
It's a mutually beneficial partnership.
While creating revenue for Habitat, studios also benefit by not having to pay fees to transport and dispose of the materials in landfills. Programs like Habitat's also help studios improve their environmental image. Film sets traditionally have been notoriously wasteful, generating tons of set construction materials that ended up in landfills. But in the last decade studios have set up sustainability programs to reduce waste on productions, recycle more materials, and invest in low energy buildings and equipment.
"It's very valuable to us," said Frank Simpson, director of the property and wardrobe department at Sony Pictures Studios, the biggest donor to Habitat. "I might have three or four shows wrapping at the same time and I have a limited amount of space. We need to get things out as quickly as we can. They are very good about getting here when we need them. They are providing a great service."
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Habitat launched its program in 2004 after Dave McKechnie, who is now vice president of retail operations for the organization, stopped by the set of the remake "Fun With Dick and Jane" during filming in Rancho Palos Verdes.
"I talked to the security guard and I said, 'What are you going to do with all that stuff once you leave?'" McKechnie said. "They had a bunch of double garage doors on these houses. We spent $500 on those types of doors. I was thinking we could put those in the next houses we build."
Sony agreed to donate the doors, windows and other materials from the set, beginning a long-standing relationship with the charity.
Merchandise at the ReStore outlets is 30% to 40% below regular retail prices, and includes items such as television sets and couches as well as movie props like Roman columns and foam beams.
Some of the more unusual items have included 5,000 pieces of Japanese pottery from the Steven Spielberg movie "Memoirs of a Geisha," orange-neon colored desks from "Men in Black 3," 200 doors from the long-running ABC series "Desperate Housewives" and several 5,000-gallon cisterns used in "Spider-Man." (Habitat sent them to a charity in Mexico for a water project.)
Habitat this year received about 60 sheets of faux-brick wall used for a wine cellar set in "The Hangover Part III." One customer bought 40 sheets for $25 each to use in a custom-made spa.
"It's like a treasure hunt here," McKechnie said. "You never know what's going to show up."
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