The founder of CarsDirect.com is off to a new venture that takes the basic CarsDirect model and applies it to other big-ticket items like boats, motorcycles, washing machines, computers and stereos.

Scott Painter has founded L.A.-based Direct Ventures to manage all aspects of sales for what he calls "thoughtful purchases," or purchases over $500 that might require answers from experts, financing options, maintenance services or insurance.

"Our first site, BoatsDirect.com, sold over $1 million worth of boats in under a month," Painter said. "That's four times the volume that we did at CarsDirect in our first month of sales, and the boating market is only one tenth the size of the car market."

Over the next six months, Painter plans to assemble a board of experts in the various retailing fields that the group plans to tackle. The launch of MotorcyclesDirect.com is imminent, and a new site focusing on different products will launch every two months after that. The company is also considering a portal site, similar to Amazon.com, that would make all of its sites available in one place.

Direct Ventures is in the process of closing its first round of funding, expected to top $30 million. Painter declined to identify his financial backers until after the round is officially closed.

Innovative Movie-Promo Tactic

Using the Internet to promote movies is nothing new, even for studios that have fumbled with their own original content or entertainment sites.

But one local company is taking a new cyber approach to marketing its upcoming computer-animated feature film.

In a first for a production company or studio, Santa Monica-based Threshold Entertainment, through its Internet subsidiary TheThreshold.com, plans to run a 22-episode prequel series called "Foodfight!: The Adventures of Dex Detective" that will run in advance of the theatrical release of its animated film "Foodfight!" The movie, which is not slated to be released for another year and a half to two years, has yet to find a studio distributor but that isn't stopping Threshold.

The film, currently in production, is a tale of what happens in a grocery store after hours. With permission from major food and consumer product companies, including Procter & Gamble, Lipton Foods, Post Cereals and M & M; Mars, scores of products in the grocery store become heroes of the film. The movie will include already-known product mascots, like Mr. Clean and the Chiquita Banana Lady, and will introduce newly created characters, such as Dex Detective.

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