‘Twelve Dogs’ still a hit in Maine

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BETHEL – The countless dogs, the trucked-in snow, the crew, the cameras, the 1930s costumes and the old-fashioned automobiles are all now just a memory of the time two years ago when the movie biz swooped down and cloaked this little town in a Depression-era fantasy.

But the story itself carries on.

DVDs of the film “The Twelve Dogs of Christmas” continue to sell steadily, with peak selling season at Christmas when the appetite for sweet stories and a need to entertain the kids come together to form the perfect market. Altogether nearly half a million copies have sold, according to the film’s producer, Ken Kragen.

And the movie is selling faster in Maine than anywhere else, which includes every state and 50 nations.

“Maine is still outselling the rest of the country,” Kragen said Thursday, speaking from his Beverly Hills home.

The film was shot in Bethel for a couple of months during the spring of 2004. A couple hundred extras, including lots of kids and nearly 100 photogenic dogs, whose owners also tagged along, joined the professional cast and crew.

Tim Rogers, who manages the electronics department at Oxford’s Wal-Mart store, said the movie sold out two days before Christmas. So he wasn’t able to count how many copies had been snatched up because there was no product left with a bar code to scan for its selling history.

Part of the reason for the quick depletion of stock was the late arrival of the DVDs. Although customers were asking for it in October, the “Twelve Dogs” DVD didn’t arrive until three weeks before Christmas, Rogers said. He has requested that Wal-Mart’s corporate buyers purchase the film sooner next year in anticipation of meeting the same demand.

The movie has caught on, and although it’s still early yet to see what its longevity might be, it could well become a Christmas classic, or at least sell at a good pace for a few more years before fading away.

Kragen hopes so.

“We’re moving along in the right direction. We figure we’ll have our money back in the fourth or fifth year,” he said. “I think this will go on for a long, long time. That’s our hope, that we’ll make a profit.”

The movie, which cost just under $2 million, was inspired by a jotted-down story written by Kragen’s daughter, Emma, when she was 7, on the back of a restaurant placemat. Kragen saw its potential and sent it to a publisher. Although Kragen’s own book was nixed at the time, the publisher went for Emma’s, which was a take-off of the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The children’s book, published nine years ago, still regularly sells between 40,000 and 60,000 copies a year, according to Kragen.

Emma, now 16, is a star basketball player, an equestrian, a choral singer, and an all-around busy high school student who wants to become a movie producer one day, her dad said.

“The book just took off, you can’t miss with kids, dogs and Christmas,” Kragen mused. And the movie, too, has that same charm. “I can’t tell you all the reasons, but it hit the right chord, one that is universal. You can buy counterfeits of it in China – that means we’ve really made it.”

Marcey White, who co-owns A Prodigal Inn in Bethel, put up many of the cast and crew in her B&B. She said she still receives Christmas cards from the directors and producers of the film, and amuses her guests by pointing out the places in town where scenes were filmed.

“It’s got a lot of heart and soul in it,” she said. “It’s a Hallmark-type movie. It just grows on you, and appeals to families.”

Scott Cole, Bethel’s town manager, who is nothing like the mean mayor in the film who outlaws dogs, said he remembers being fascinated by the chance to watch a film being made.

And the dogs, the dogs everywhere.

“You would see a ton of dogs, different types of dogs, waiting for the next scene,” he said, adding that pet owners did lawfully keep them on leashes. “There were several weeks of mild chaos, but in a good way.”

The real lasting effect of the movie on the town, though, seems to be something similar to a wild storm or flood rushing through, changing day-to-day life for just a while, but long enough.

“[Bethel people] use it as a reference point in time. ‘When “The Twelve Dogs” was filmed’,” Cole said. “It is in the lexicon.”

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