The Grove has always been a place where famous people can be spotted. You might see Owen Wilson browsing at Barnes & Noble or Channing Tatum shopping at the Apple Store.
But the celebrity wattage has become even more blinding since the entertainment show “Extra” began filming there last fall as it seeks to boost ratings that lag behind long-running evening stalwart “Entertainment Tonight.”
Host Mario Lopez has chatted up reality TV star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, rapper Snoop Dogg and countless other celebs as crowds gather to see who is going to show up. The biggest draw so far has been Jennifer Lopez, who was greeted by 4,000 fans.
It appears the business arrangement – which allows the taping to go on for free in exchange for the obvious publicity for the mall in L.A.’s Fairfax district – has turned out better than could have been expected. That’s certainly the take of mall owner Caruso Affiliated.
“It’s taken our exposure to a national level,” said Caruso spokeswoman Jennifer Gordon. “It’s been a very positive relationship for both of us and one that I hope will continue.”
But the arrangement hasn’t necessarily been a win-win for everyone. There have been grumblings coming from some of the Grove’s 18 kiosks, which sell stuffed animals, hats, T-shirts, costume jewelry and the like.
Employees at half of the booths said the filming hasn’t built business for them. One complaint was that the crowd was far more interested in celebrities than shopping, and sometimes even elbow out potential customers.
“When it’s a big celebrity coming in, it kills business,” said one employee, who, like others, asked not to be identified.
One worker said that on some taping days an “Extra” banner almost completely obscures his booth, but he hasn’t complained because he doesn’t want to make any waves.
Gordon said she wasn’t aware of any complaints from the kiosk businesses. She believes the taping benefits all tenants, though she declined to release any mall sales figures.
“When they film in front of the carts or kiosks or the restaurants, they get the exposure because they are in the background,” she said.
Indeed, some other businesses do welcome the tapings, which are done from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at various locations.
Michael Morgan, manager of Whisper Lounge, said people from the “Extra” audience drop by for a drink or a meal sometimes, while crew members have become regulars.