How Hollywood celebrities are getting in on the NFT craze, from Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton to Mila Kunis and Reese Witherspoon – but will their early market entry pay off?

The Guardians of Fashion project will mint 6,888 NFTs for two-dimensional avatars, and Warner Music has signed on as its first partner. Photo: Handout

The blockchain-based digital assets – NFT stands for non-fungible token – are a hot commodity in the entertainment industry right now, where everyone from former Disney CEO Bob Iger to Hollywood stars Reese Witherspoon and Mila Kunis are getting in on the act. On a recent episode of The Tonight Show, Paris Hilton and host Jimmy Fallon fawned over their respective Bored Apes NFTs.

But many are still trying to wrap their heads around the tech, which has garnered scepticism from some quarters, as well as comparisons to the dotcom boom and bust.

In their most common current form, NFTs function much like digital trading cards or works of art – unique collectibles that can be acquired and then sold. But there are many other applications for the tech, some of which Hollywood is just beginning to explore, including “utility NFTs” that can act as a subscription or a ticket to an event.

While some see the ascendance of the tech as a fad, others are loath to miss out on a potential new revenue stream, and the entertainment industry’s heaviest hitters are minting and buying NFTs of their own.

Let’s take a deeper look …

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The Hollywood players laying claim to NFTs

Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine partners with NFT collective World of Women to turn their artworks into shows. Photo: @DiscussingFilm/Twitter
Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine has signed NFT deals to develop TV and film projects, while Law & Order mega-producer Dick Wolf has teamed up with NFT marketplace Curio to release interactive storytelling project Wolf Society. However, the Hollywood mogul who has lent the most credibility to the digital asset so far has to be Bob Iger, the former chairman of Disney, who invested in and joined the board of Genies, a company that makes digital wearable NFTs.

Entertainment companies are also capitalising on the NFT trend in various ways. Fox Entertainment released 10,000 Miss Masky NFTs tied to its hit reality show The Masked Singer in hopes that fans would collect, buy and trade other Masked Singer NFTs on the Eluvio platform (which Fox has invested in).

Rupert Murdoch’s broadcaster was one of the quicker legacy media companies to move into the space with its Blockchain Creative Labs NFT studio. The studio’s CEO, Scott Greenberg, who also heads Fox animation studio Bento Box, said he believes NFTs will become a revenue-driving business for Hollywood and not just a market for speculative assets. Fox also has a US$100 million creators’ fund for NFTs.

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But just about every media conglomerate and start-up is getting in on the action now.

Warner Bros. sold 100,000 Matrix Resurrections-inspired NFTs, while NFT platform OneOf, backed by legendary music producer Quincy Jones, auctioned off an NFT of the previously never-heard demo of a Whitney Houston song for almost US$1 million. Paramount Global (parent company of MTV Nickelodeon and CBS) is working with NFT start-up Recur to create its own NFT marketplace.

What the future of Hollywood’s NFT marketplace holds isn’t crystal clear, but early adopters are bullish.

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Snoop Dogg collaborated with Champ Medici to release this NFT comic panel. Photo: @ADANinjaz/Twitter

Blockchain Creative Labs’ CEO Scott Greenberg sees the NFT market expanding beyond digital collectibles, while former Fox executive Rich Battista, one of the aforementioned Curio’s investors, predicts that Hollywood will soon begin to create IP that is “native to the NFT world”.

Mila Kunis has invested in an NFT animated series called The Gimmicks. Photo: @therealgimmicks/Instagram
Actor and producer Mila Kunis, for instance, has invested in NFT animated series The Gimmicks through her blockchain entertainment company, Sixth Wall. The studio behind the series, Toonstar, is able to quickly animate weekly episodes that allow Gimmicks NFT holders to vote on the direction of the show’s storyline.

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Mad Realities releases cheeky NFTs that allow buyers to influence the outcome of their dating show, Proof of Love. Photo: @madrealities/Instagram
There are also entire entertainment companies being created on a cryptocurrency and Web3 foundation, such as Mad Realities. Dubbed “the potential Web3 version of Netflix”, Mad Realities recently raised US$6 million in a round led by Paradigm that also includes investments from Bumble’s Selby Drummond and 11:11 Media – Paris Hilton’s media company.

The allure of allowing industry outsiders to participate in Hollywood’s creative process is one factor driving this new business model.

For instance, former co-CEO of MGM and Spyglass Entertainment co-founder Roger Birnbaum partnered with AOL scion Mark Kimsey to debut a studio that also allows NFT holders “a deep level of access to various stages of film and television production – from the creative process to development, writing, casting, marketing and distribution”, according to their new company Electromagnetic Productions.

The next big opportunity

NFTs don’t just allow people to own digital artworks like these ones on display at the Indo NFT Festiverse in Indonesia recently, but are becoming more interactive. Photo: AFP

Expect more players to jump on the NFT bandwagon in the coming months and years.

“Even the most traditional Hollywood company is not going to ignore the massive winds of change that are going to start blowing through,” former UTA chief innovation officer Brent Weinstein said. Weinstein, who’s now chief development officer at Candle Media – founded by former Disney execs Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs – is positioned to capitalise on that intersection of legacy media and new modes of storytelling and distribution.

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Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can be bought on NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea (pictured). Photo: Reuters

“Do I expect the most traditional companies to be leading in this space?” said Weinstein. “Probably not, but I think the smartest of them will take advantage.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider
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  • Former Disney boss Bob Iger joined the board of a company making wearable NFTs, and Warner Bros. sold 100,000 Matrix Resurrections-inspired tokens
  • Not just digital collectibles, some NFTs also now allow holders to participate in the Hollywood creative process, like in Mila Kunis’ animated show The Gimmicks