How Disney Is Using HSN to Sell ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

With lackluster film reviews and soft box office tracking, Johnny Depp sequel can use all the promotion it gets

Last Updated: May 24, 2016 @ 11:37 AM

Bill Brand’s HSN isn’t just pushing Lancome cosmetics and Hewlett-Packard computers these days — his ties to Hollywood include a Melissa McCarthy clothing line, lots of Wendy Williams fashion and several big-sellers from Joy Mangano, whose life story was recently portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy.”

“Entertainment plays a big role at HSN,” the company president told us.

Brand’s former Home Shopping Network will spend the next three full days marketing Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” selling more than 200 different exclusive products designed around the film.

In a recent telephone interview about the partnership — the fifth film on which the two companies have worked together (after “The Help,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” “Maleficent” and “Cinderella”) and their largest duet yet — Brand predicted big figures from Vince Camuto’s “Alice”-inspired shoes, a Heidi Daus-designed timepiece and hats by Patricia Underwood, to name a few examples.

The out-there stylings of “Alice” must be a designer’s dream, though perhaps not the kind readily associated with the stereotype of a traditional live-TV shopper. We asked the HSN president why he thinks this one will be a big hit for both parties.

“This movie is important because of the creative context — the idea from a merchandising perspective that you can go into so many different directions and create really interesting concepts and collections,” Brand (pictured above with Johnny Depp‘s Mad Hatter) said.

Disney Promotions VP Don Gross agreed.

“What resonates really well in these types of partnerships is the characters, the visual spectacle … the locations,” he told us in a separate phone interview.

During that conversation, Gross praised HSN as “great storytellers,” much like Disney itself.

Plus, “they have a great platform,” he gushed.

After all, this ain’t exactly your mama’s HSN, both executives insisted. Mobile and e-commerce make up a substantial portion of the company’s billions in revenue these days.

But still, at its core, HSN is a female-focused cable channel that sells goods attached to attractive payment plans. And over the next 72 hours, it’ll all be about “Alice,” with interstitials including clips and behind-the-scenes “making of” footage.

Perhaps Disney can use the help advertising this one. Early tracking numbers have “Alice Through the Looking Glass” opening between $53-$60 million — basically slicing March 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” opening of $116 million in half.

Early reviews aren’t overly promising either. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” currently has a 48 percent RottenTomatoes score from critics, which falls to just 40 percent when isolated the website’s Top Critics.

But Brand is not sweating a potential box office disappointment. We asked him point blank if HSN’s promotion can still be successful if the movie isn’t.

“Absolutely,” he responded.

“On the review side, it’s less important to us,” Brand elaborated. “This is a highly marketed movie by Disney.”

“Disney believes in it, and Disney does quality work,” he continued. “And we believe in Disney.”

They each believe in each other so much, in fact, that their cooperative work on a sixth film for 2017 is already underway. Neither side offered up so much as a riddle about what that movie will be.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” premieres in theaters on Friday. Its 72-hour takeover of HSN will run Tuesday through Thursday.