Dummy vs. dummy

Two startups that provide moviemakers with vinyl 'extras' for big crowd scenes are squaring off in court.

By Elizabeth Wright, FSB contributor

(FSB Magazine) -- You've seen them in Million-Dollar Baby, Be Cool, and Ocean's 13: stands crammed with spectators cheering for the hero. But in the movies, sometimes not even the extras are real. To cut costs, filmmakers dress up inflatable vinyl torsos to intersperse among real people in crowd scenes.

Now the two startups in the market are squaring off in court. Crowd in a Box (crowdinabox.com), which holds patents issued in 2004 and 2005 for the use of inflatable humanoid figures in background scenes, is suing Inflatable Crowd for patent violation.

Joe Biggins, owner of Inflatable Crowd (inflatablecrowd.com), declines to comment on the suit but says he came up with the dummy idea independently in 2002, while working on the crew of Seabiscuit. Since then Biggins, 35, has become the market leader, placing his inflatables in more than 50 feature films, while Crowd in a Box has five (plus five TV shows and 22 commercials).

"He seems to have better connections in Hollywood than we do," admits Crowd in a Box co-owner Mark Woolpert, 58, who anticipates a court date in November.  Top of page

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