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'South Park' grows up, starts a studio

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park" are starting their own production studio.

The creators of "South Park," Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are taking some of the$200 million in profits from their Broadway musical, "Book of Mormon," and along with a little help from investors are starting their own production studio. They're calling it Important Studios.

In 1993, while they were stidemts at the University of Colorado, Parker and Stone made their first feature film, "Cannibal! The Musical." They made it on a shoestring, though for a couple of college kids $125,000 isn't bad. Four years later the first episode of "South Park" aired on Comedy Central. Almost instantly the irreverent cartoon featuring bits like "Jesus vs. Santa" became a huge hit. Then came "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," which had a budget of $21 million, more than 100 times the budget for "Cannibal!"

Kathryn Arnold, an entertainment consultant in Los Angeles, says Parker and Stone have a proven track record of creative successes that have also been commercially successful, "not only in TV but also with their play 'Book of Mormon.'"

Some of that success has been attributed to Parker and Stone's early adoption of online streaming for "South Park." Arnold says this gives them an advantage because they have direct access to their fans and allows them to market their projects cheaply. "They're ahead of the curve, whereas the studios started in traditional media and marketing. These guys, that was their base from the very beginning."

From a business perspective that makes their new studio a solid investment. "Start-ups are particularly attractive right now to investors" says Agata Kaczanowska, an entertainment industry analyst with IBIS world.

By creating their own studio, Parker and Stone will have $300 million to spend on developing new shows. But perhaps the biggest perk is that they will have even more creative control.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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