CBS entertainment head Nina Tassler extended the deal until 2017

CBS’ entertainment chief, Nina Tassler, has earned a bigger title — chairman of CBS Entertainment — and a new employment contract that will keep her at the network through 2017.

Tassler will continue to be responsible for all of CBS’ entertainment programming, including prime-time, daytime and late-night hours. She also will head program development for all genres, including comedy, drama, reality, mini-series and other TV specials.

Tassler will oversee scheduling, research, advertising, promotions, publicity and business affairs for entertainment programming matters, but those division chiefs will continue to report CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.

“There are very few executives with her track record of consistently achieving high-level success in all forms of entertainment programming,” Moonves said in a statement Thursday announcing Tassler’s new contract.

Tassler also will continue to report to Moonves. The two executives have worked together for 25 years, dating back to their days at Lorimar Television and, later, Warner Bros. Television, where they developed and produced “ER.”

Over the years, Tassler has helped nurture some of the most popular shows in television, including “The Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother,” and the critically acclaimed “The Good Wife.” Earlier, when she served as senior vice president of drama development,  Tassler helped shepherd “CSI” and “NCIS” to the screen.

Tassler joined CBS in August 1997 as vice president for drama programming for CBS Productions. The following year, she moved over to the CBS network as senior vice president of drama development and became the network’s entertainment president in 2003.

Tassler also serves on the board for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation and for Jewish Family Services. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for Boston University. She graduated from Boston University after majoring in theater.

She began her career as an assistant at the Roundabout Theater Company in New York while waiting tables and auditioning for acting roles. She got a call back for the play “Come Back, Little Sheba,” but failed to land the part. However, she excelled in program development.

Obama praised the growth of employment in the entertainment industry

President Barack Obama put the klieg light on Hollywood Tuesday, crediting the motion picture and television industry for being an engine of growth and a bright spot in a recovering economy.

“Entertainment is one of the bright spots of our economy,” Obama told a crowd of nearly 2,000 people gathered at the Glendale campus of DreamWorks Animation SKG. “The gap between what we can do and other countries can do is enormous. That’s worth cheering about.”

Obama was hosted by DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is one of Obama’s biggest contributors and fundraisers.

A May 2012 fundraiser hosted by Katzenberg at George Clooney’s house raised nearly $15 million for the Obama campaign. And in September, Obama met Katzenberg for dinner at the Hilton Woodland Hills after an appearance the president made on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

Obama thanked Katzenberg for his support. “Jeffrey … has been a friend and supporter through thick and thin,” Obama said. “His place in the entertainment industry is legendary. I don’t need to puff him up too much. He has a healthy sense of self, but he is a great friend and somebody whose counsel and advice I value and I’m incredibly grateful to be here at this wonderful institution that he helped to build.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that Obama chose the DreamWorks Animation site because of the studio’s track record in creating jobs, not because of Katzenberg’s fundraising. Employment at DreamWorks has risen by 50% since January 2008.

DreamWorks has generated billions in box-office revenue from its hit “Shrek,” “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar” movies, expanding its business in China and overseas markets and branching into television with a recent partnership with the Netflix streaming service.

Guided by Katzenberg, Obama got a lesson in how animators use motion capture to bring animated characters to life and had a funny exchange with actors Steve Martin and Jim Parsons, who were recording lines for the studio’s upcoming alien-invasion film, “Home.”

Obama greeted the actors in a small sound studio. He shook hands with Parsons but not Martin, who declined, explaining that he had a cold. Instead of shaking hands, the actor and the president did a little elbow bump.

“Are you going to sound a little nasal in your reading today?” the president asked Martin.

“I actually got the cold intentionally,” Martin joked.

“How’s the banjo playing?” Obama asked Martin. “This guy performed at the White House and was unbelievable,” he said, turning to the press. “I was a little shocked at how good he was.”

Martin said the performance had been “the biggest thrill of his life.”

“That’s how I felt about it,” Obama said. “I told Michelle: ‘Biggest thrill of my life. Inauguration, nothing; Steve playing banjo, that was big.'”

After the tour, Obama said he asked Katzenberg if he could work for the company and quipped that he felt a natural connection to the studio because his “ears were one of the inspirations for Shrek.”

The president met privately with a group of top Hollywood executives including CBS Corp. Chief Executive Les Moonves; Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; Peter Rice, chairman of Fox Broadcasting; Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBC Universal; and Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

“The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the economy and highlight the entertainment industry as a bright spot in our growing economy,” Earnest said. “The president discussed the impact that broader economic conditions has on the industry. He also touched on piracy and intellectual property rights, which are chief concerns of participating film industry leaders.”

Obama’s visit and upbeat message about the entertainment industry, however, comes at a time of widespread anxiety among the middle-class crew members in Los Angeles who work behind the scenes on film and TV sets.

Many have seen their job opportunities and incomes dwindle as more work has migrated to other states and countries such as Canada and the U.K. that offer film productions stronger incentives and tax breaks than are available in California.

“Some indicators suggest that activity in the entertainment industry is up, but that has not translated into jobs here in California,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “In fact, the number of industry-related jobs locally and in California has shown little improvement since the recession, even as industry employment nationally has increased modestly over the past couple of years.”

The entertainment industry poured $ 47 billion into L.A.

Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., recently spoke with The Times about a new report on the entertainment industry’s effect on the L.A. County economy.

What was the purpose of the study?

We know that the entertainment industry looms large on the world stage and that L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world. We said, ‘Okay, how big is this industry?’ This study was an effort to evaluate the size of the entertainment industry and to measure its impact on the L.A. economy in terms of jobs, income and taxes.

So what did you conclude?

What we found is that despite the loss of business to places around the world, the entertainment industry in L.A. County remains a focal point for the industry around the world, and is also a significant contributor to the local economy. It’s an industry that accounts for not just 162,000 wage and salary jobs, but another 85,000 jobs for freelancers and independent contractors. Taking into account the ripple effect the industry has on other jobs (caterers, florists and so on), the industry supported 586,000 jobs and had an annual output of $47 billion in 2011. That’s equivalent to 8.4% of the county’s annual economic output.

Where does entertainment rank in size compared to other big sectors such as healthcare and trade?

The entertainment industry is the fifth largest sector based on employment (behind health services, business administration services, hospitality and real estate). However, its impact on the local economy is much greater because the films, television programming, and music that are produced here in L.A. are viewed by people throughout the country and the entire world. They generate entertainment-related revenue streams from around the world that supports spending and jobs that otherwise would not exist locally.

What comprises the entertainment sector?

By far the largest category is motion picture and video-related industries. That is followed by the sound industry, radio, television and cable sectors, live entertainment, as well as agents, managers and independent artists.

So how has the entertainment sector fared over the last decade?

If you look at the industry compared to 2001, the number of jobs has increased. Total employment was 16.9% higher in 2011 than in 2001 as the media sector has expanded its offerings and produced more content for existing and new distribution channels, such as mobile and the Internet.

But, as you note in the study, the film and television sector lost more than 16,100 jobs since its peak in 2004. What accounts for that?

Among the reasons are new technology, the recession, which led to a decline in jobs in virtually every sector of the economy, piracy and runaway production.

How much of a challenge is the migration of work to other states and countries?

The local industry has seen a declining share of the business over the last several years at the same time we’ve seen gains elsewhere in the country. For example, in 2005, 82% of all new prime-time TV pilots were shot in L.A. County. By 2011, that had fallen to 51%. We still have quite a bit of downstream support and infrastructure here in L.A. that continues to make it an ideal place to shoot, but we’ve also seen prop houses, sound stages and other support services lured away to other states, so we have to be concerned about that development.

Has California’s film tax credit made much difference?

A separate study that the LAEDC did found that for every dollar in tax credit, the state and local government gets at least $1.06 back (in intial economic impact), so there does seem to be a net positive benefit to the state and local government.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office said your analysis exaggerated the benefits. What’s your response to that?

We used fairly conservative assumptions and the results of our study were very similar to those of another study by the Milken Institute, which also showed there was a net positive benefit. It keeps employment here in California.

The game name is music in the new Forum

Seasoned concert-goers who walk into the resurrected Forum in Inglewood after it opens Wednesday with the first of six Eagles concerts may be struck as much by what’s missing as by what’s been added to the 46-year-old former sports palace.

The overhead electronic scoreboard and basketball backboards that were integral to the Forum during its 31-year reign as Southern California’s premiere sports arena? Gone.

Hard-plastic sports-arena seats? Gone — replaced by movie theater-style high-back upholstered seats.

The blue exterior color added in 1988 when Great Western Bank secured naming rights? Gone, replaced by gleaming coats of the original shade now known as “Forum red.”

All the missing elements add up to what the revamped Forum is: a new kind of arena, one thoroughly reconfigured with music and live entertainment as the top priorities, rather than subservient to resident sports teams.

It’s the outcome of a $100-million investment by Madison Square Garden Co. as the New York firm’s first West Coast venture. In some respects, it’s a $100-million gamble as MSG rolls the dice in hopes that it can create a viable business at the arena level without a sports team to anchor the calendar, as has been the rule at arenas across the country.

“We don’t know how things are going to go,” said MSG Executive Chairman James L. Dolan, who has overseen the recent $1-billion overhaul of Madison Square Garden itself and major rehab efforts on other historic New York venues, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. “But I’m very hopeful. We’ve tried to think of everything we could that would make it [work], and if it does — if we are right — I think it does change the game.”

The return of the Forum may well represent a game-changer both in the healthy concert business, if aging arenas in other cities can be profitably retooled for live entertainment, as well as for the city of Inglewood and its environs, which have struggled as fortunes faded at the Forum and neighboring Hollywood Park.

Absent any resident sports teams, the Forum has been redesigned to maximize the concert-going experience. Concrete walls and partitions have been dressed up with black fabric to absorb sonic reverberations that can wreak havoc with music.

As for the luxury corporate sky boxes that help newly built arenas pay the bills, but which push upper-deck seating for fans even farther from the stage on concert nights—the top row of the Forum is 80 feet above the arena floor, compared to 110 feet at Staples Center–they never existed at the Forum, and none have been added.

Musicians will find that in place of the athletic locker rooms they’ve often had to use as makeshift dressing rooms, the Forum has reinvented those backstage spaces as elegantly appointed artist rest and relaxation spaces. For today’s elaborate stage shows, crews will now have the ability to hang 350,000 pounds of equipment from the ceiling, to which 230 tons of steel support have been added.

Now the gussied-up Forum is positioned to compete with the venue that once stole its fire. Not that Staples Center will be rolling over.

“It’s another large venue coming into an already crowded market,” said Staples Senior Vice President and General Manager Lee Zeidman. “I don’t know how many shows they’ll have to have to make a profit, but at the end of the day, I think we still have the best artist and fan ameninties. Coupled with two hotels next door, 19 restaurants in the L.A. Live complex and three more ready to open up and our location downtown, I think Staples Center is going to continue to be the region’s preferred chioce for arena and concert entertainment.”

The Forum was designed by architect Charles Luckman (he also designed the original Madison Square Garden arena) and built by Lakers’ owner Jack Kent Cooke. After opening in 1967, it reigned as the region’s premiere sports arena for more than 30 years, until billionaire developer Philip Anschutz’s Anschutz Entertainment Group opened Staples Center 10 miles away.

During the 2000s, the Forum saw only sporadic activity while it was owned by the Faithful Central Bible Church, which sold it to MSG last year for $23.5 million.

Today, however, the Forum could take a serious bite out of its competitor’s concert business because many of Staples calendar dates are consumed by its resident NBA and NHL sports franchises: the Lakers, the Clippers and the Kings. Those teams keep Staples busy more than 120 nights a year, although Staples officials downplay any limitations sports activity presents for concert bookings.

“We put on 53 concerts last year,” Zeidman saidbesting the arena’s previous high of 38. “We’re going into our 14th year, and We’ve never had a problem routing in an artist who wanted to play Staples Center.”

Oprah Winfrey Have praised the Power 100 Women at the Entertainment Breakfast

The Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100” Women in Entertainment Breakfast, honoring Oprah Winfrey with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, presented to her by former California First Lady Maria Shriver.

The program: TV host Jimmy Kimmel opened the ceremonies, taking note of “this sea of perfect blowouts” and suggesting “Wouldn’t it be better to rename the event the 100 most powerful people in Hollywood and just not give any of the spots to men?” He then delivered a warning to Kanye West, seated with the Kardashian clan. “Don’t even think about taking this award away from Oprah,” Kimmel said.

Next up were the Hollywood Reporter’s editorial director Janice Min, publisher Lynne Segall and Sherry Lansing. Demi Lovato followed by naming participants in the magazine’s mentoring program, a joint venture with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles, which pairs high school girls with mentors and awards them $10,000 college scholarships. Lovato surprised the audience by announcing not one, but two winners of full four-year scholarships, valued at $200,000 each, to Loyola Marymount University.

The crowd: The affair, presented by Lifetime, took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Wednesday (Dec. 11), the day the magazine released its list of the industry’s top female power players (and coincidentally the same day Screen Actors Guild nominees were announced, including Winfrey,nominated for supporting actress for her role in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”).

The packed Beverly Hills ballroom included  Anne Sweeney, the  co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, who was named No. 1 on the list for the fourth year. Also attending were Nancy Dubuc, president and CEO A+E Networks; Amy Pascal, co-chair, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Donna Langley, chair, Universal Pictures; Sue Kroll, president, worldwide marketing and international distribution, Warner Bros.; Jennifer Salke, president, NBC Entertaiment; Stacey Snider, co-chair and CEO, DreamWorks Studios; Sandra Stern, COO, Lionsgate TV; Jill Leiderman, executive producer, “Jimmy Kimmel Live”; Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO DreamWorks Animation; “The Butler” director Lee Daniels and the film’s screenwriter, Danny Strong.

More familiar to the general public were Jane Fonda, Gayle King, Whitney Cummings, Nikki Reed, Maria Bello, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Naya Rivera, Big Sean, Allison Williams, Amber Valletta, Geena Davis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Molly Sims, Ahna O’Reilly, Candice Accola, Angie Harmon, Gillian Jacobs, Mandy Moore, Cat Deeley, Alyson Hannigan and Judy Greer.

The presentation: “The woman that we are all honoring here this morning puts the capital ‘I’ in inspiring. She also puts the capital ‘I’ in influence,” Shriver said of Winfrey, continuing with more “I” descriptors:  imagination, instruction and impact.

After reciting a list of Winfrey’s many accomplishments, Shriver asked Winfrey to think back on her life from her birthplace in Mississippi to President Obama presenting her with the Medal of Freedom last month. “Think back to how hard you’ve worked, how many mountains you have climbed, how many scary, scary things you’ve pushed through, how many people you have proved wrong, how many people you have inspired,” she said.

The acceptance: “That beats a eulogy, I gotta tell you. It really does,” said Winfrey. “I mean, good Lord. And you’re alive to hear it.”

Winfrey defined power as “strength over time. That means strength times strength, times strength, times strength equals power.”

She talked of seeing herself on the cover of the Hollywood Reporter’s “rule breakers” issue. “When I saw the title of the cover, it brought tears to my eyes because my cover line was ‘innovator.’ And I thought, ‘Is that what this was? I’m a rule breaker and an innovator?’ I just thought I was getting my [rear] kicked.”

She concluded with the importance of using power to better the lives of others. “That is the true purpose of leadership,” she said. “How do you use your life to elevate the life of somebody else? That’s what everybody in this room has been called to do.”

Chief talks NBC Entertainment Leno, NFL and Peter Pan

NBC doesn’t want to say goodbye to “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno just yet.

“I’m very much hoping we will enter into a new relationship with him after ‘The Tonight Show,’ ” said NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt at the semiannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena on Sunday.

Leno, who ends his run as “Tonight Show” host on Feb. 6 (with Billy Crystal as his final guest), has kept mum on his future plans, including whether he will seek another TV hosting gig. Greenblatt said he’d like to have Leno host specials for NBC down the road.

Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” will debut as host of “The Tonight Show” on Feb. 17, in the midst of its coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The network hopes that the bigger audiences for the Games will mean increased sampling for Fallon.

Greenblatt also said the network has an appetite for more football. The National Football League is soliciting offers for a potential Thursday night package of games. Greenblatt declined to comment on whether NBC, which is home to Sunday night football, had made an offer but said “we’d love to have more NFL games,” and “Thursday night games might be really interesting to us.”

One reason Thursday football would appeal to NBC is that its comedies on that night have been struggling. The network has programmed sitcoms on Thursday for decades but given its recent challenges, Greenblatt didn’t rule out going in a different direction next season. Expensive and heavily promoted new comedies starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes have failed to click with viewers, much to the frustration of the network.

“We’re really unhappy that we can’t find an audience for them,” said Greenblatt, adding that this spring the network will “have to get in the scheduling room and make some hard decisions.”

An easy decision for NBC to make was to greenlight another live musical after the surprising success of “The Sound of Music Live” last month. Greenblatt said NBC would take another crack with “Peter Pan” in December. Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who made “The Sound of Music Live” are also on board for “Peter Pan.”

NBC also said it had signed “Parks and Recreation” star Amy Poehler to a production deal and is developing a sitcom she will produce starring Natasha Lyonne (“Orange is the New Black”) as a woman who works in a senior care facility.

Networks are typically obsessed with shows about younger people, but NBC executives said this comedy will give it a chance to broaden its casting and appeal to older viewers as well.

“I’d like to see them represented,” Greenblatt said.

Other new shows in development include “State of Affairs” starring former “Grey’s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl as a CIA liaison for the White House. The network also has a limited series in the works inspired by Frank L. Baum’s books called “Emerald City.”

Coming off a strong fall in which its average prime time audience was up 10%, Greenblatt said NBC is unlikely to change the way it develops new shows. Responding to a question regarding Fox’s plans to abandon so-called pilot season — the three month ritual in which networks frantically order scripts, hire actors and shoot trial episodes — Greenblatt said he is happy with the current model.

DMG Entertainment will go public on Shenzhen Stock Exchange

DMG Entertainment, the Beijing-based company that co-produced Hollywood films including “Iron Man 3” and “Transcendence,” is in the process of going public on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

The move will see DMG enter the exchange through a reverse takeover with meat-processing company Sichuan Gaojin Foods. The deal still needs regulatory approval.

According to DMG and Sichuan Gaojin, the deal values DMG at $970 million. That’s three times the value of Gaojin at the end of 2013. After the transaction, the company’s largest shareholder will be DMG Chairman Peter Xiao Wenge.

Documents filed by Sichuan Gaojin with the Shenzhen Exchange said DMG’s revenue grew from about $181 million in 2011 to $270 million in 2012 and $271 million in 2013. Film and television revenue saw a large jump between 2012 and 2013, rising from $9.3 million to $48.2 million.

“Iron Man 3,” released in 2013, grossed $121 million at the mainland box office.

Profit at DMG rose to $45.9 million in 2013, up from $25.3 million in 2011, Sichuan Gaojin’s documentation indicated.

DMG began as an advertising and TV commercial production firm but has also invested in domestic film and TV production and distribution and has interests in music and other sectors. Shares of Sichuan Gaojin, which had been suspended for months, resumed trading April 8 and have nearly doubled in the last two and a half weeks.

Until recently, China had enacted a moratorium on initial public offerings, and a backlog of listings is now awaiting approval. Among the entertainment-related companies that recently announced plans for IPOs are Wanda Cinema Line, China’s biggest movie theater chain, which plans to raise $321 million, and Shanghai Film Corp., a film producer, distributor and exhibitor that wants to raise $155 million.

Media firms remain a highly regulated, largely government-controlled sector in China, and a reverse takeover could allow DMG — which has several non-Chinese principals — to go public without drawing too much attention to itself. Chinese-language media carried reports of the reverse takeover earlier this month, but DMG had not made a statement until this week, when Variety first reported the news.

A number of Chinese companies — including restaurant chains, fireworks manufacturers, dairy firms and video game makers — have shown interest this year in acquiring media, TV and film production companies.

Restaurant chain Beijing Xiangeqing said in March that it would acquire 51% of China Film & Television Production Co. and 51% of Di Nu Film & Television. The same month, Panda Fireworks Group announced that it would spend $91 million to acquire Dongyang Huahai Shidai Pictures Media.

Los Angeles County entertainment jobs down 7% from 2007

The entertainment industry in Los Angeles County has lost more than 9,000 jobs since 2007.

The data comes from a report by Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. that measures the scope of California’s entire “creative economy,” which includes industries such as architecture, digital media and fashion along with entertainment.

Creative industries contributed $273 billion to the California economy, accounting for nearly 8% of the gross state product in 2012.

In Los Angeles County, entertainment alone accounted for 132,900 jobs in 2012, down nearly 6.6% over the previous five years.

Within the industry, movie and video production — which accounts for the bulk of entertainment employment — posted the biggest decline, down by 7,800 jobs, or 7.2%, since 2007.

Some of the reduction is because of the big recession during the time period, along with the impact of other states offering tax breaks to film companies.

But three areas represented bright spots in the same period. Post-production services added 530 positions, while radio stations grew by 350 jobs and television broadcasting boasted an added 1,700 jobs.

However, cable broadcasting, motion picture distribution and sound recording all fell over the five-year window.

The report was more upbeat about the next few years. Direct employment by the entertainment industry in the county is expected to grow by about 3% through 2017.

Legendary bought TV production company Asylum Entertainment

Legendary Entertainment is expanding its television production repertoire by acquiring Asylum Entertainment, the firm behind the biographical miniseries “The Kennedys.”

Legendary, the entertainment company controlled by film producer and financier Thomas Tull, announced Monday it had completed a deal to buy 100% of Asylum Entertainment, a 10-year-old production firm.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Asylum specializes in unscripted and scripted fare. The 2011 miniseries “The Kennedys” featured Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Tom Wilkinson and Katie Holmes. Originally produced for the History Channel, the network abandoned the project after complaints from Kennedy family members.

The independent Reelz Channel ultimately broadcast the series, which scored 10 Emmy nominations.

Asylum’s other credits include the sports documentary series “30 for 30” for ESPN and the 2013 movie “Ring of Fire” for Lifetime Entertainment with Jewel playing June Carter Cash.  Asylum is producing “Happy Valley” for A&E, which looks at how the sexual abuse scandal involving assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky seared the cultural fabric of Penn State University.

Legendary has been raising its profile in sports-themed content, producing this year’s biographical feature film on Jackie Robinson, “42.”

Asylum Entertainment’s founders, Chief Executive Steve Michaels and Chief Creative Officer Jonathan Koch, plan to stay on to run Asylum as a somewhat separate entity.  They will report to Bruce Rosenblum, the former Warner Bros. television chief who became president of Legendary’s television and digital media businesses last summer.

“This is an incredible deal that allows Asylum to scale our existing business beyond what we could have imagined,” Michaels and Koch said in a statement. “In terms of our programming philosophies and the audiences we’re trying to build and serve, Legendary is a perfect match.”

Retailers add little entertainment to attract buyers

Just putting a price on a product and sticking it on a shelf is so old school.

And with consumers buying more online each year, bricks-and-mortar retailers are working harder to add entertainment to their mix — from American Girl’s scavenger hunts to the Art of Shaving’s product demonstrations.

These experiences are something consumers can’t get from online shopping.

“You can buy a product just about everywhere. They are trying to add a different element so it is not just about the product,” said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL/Strategic Retail, a retail strategy firm in New York. “They are giving people a reason to play — like Converse, where you can customize your sneaker — making it worth it to go into the store. A sense of place and a place to stay.”

Retailers have been using entertainment to attract shoppers for years, from mall carousels to the Mall of America’s amusement park. But with advances in technology and growing pressure from online competition, more retailers are adding interactive attractions inside their stores.

Savvy retailers engage customers with entertainment options, from watching to fully participating.

Bass Pro Shops’ attractions vary, but some offer free photos in Santa’s Wonderland, aquariums that re-create local wildlife scenes, activity tables for kids and even laser arcade games.

“We’re the Disney World of outdoor stores … a natural history museum of the area they are in, an aquarium, an art gallery with all the beautiful murals, antiques and conservation education. And oh, by the way, we do retail,” said Larry Whiteley, spokesman for Bass Pro Shops.

Outdoor retail rival Cabela’s promotes its museum-quality animal displays and aquariums, along with special events and promotions each weekend.

Build-A-Bear Workshop was an innovator in “experiential” mall retailing 15 years ago, having children choose and name their bears — and later other animals — as the huggable toys were put together and stuffed. Now it is starting to roll out new designs with several new interactive experiences, including putting the stuffed animals at children’s height so they can touch and play with them, and offering digital screens where children can add more personalized sounds and music to their stuffed toys. Five Build-A-Bear stores have been converted to the new concept, and one new store has opened.

American Girl stores also feature interactive experiences.

“In terms of the retail environment, it’s what we’ve come to be known for,” said Stephanie Spanos, spokeswoman for American Girl. “At American Girl, it doesn’t just start and end with just a purchase.”

The American Girl events — some free, others with a fee — are aimed at building brand loyalty with young customers.

On Jan. 1, for instance, it will have interactive events to introduce its 2013 Girl of the Year doll. Girls will get to go on a scavenger hunt through stores, doing free crafts and getting gifts to take home. Past gifts have included a doll poster.

A dozen American Girl stores have cafes where customers can dine with their dolls, which have their own seats.

Some Art of Shaving stores have barber spas for straight-razor shaves and haircuts. The shops’ shaving experts take customers through the process for a “perfect shave.”

“When they can see that shaving brush in action, the rich warm lather, the sensation of the after-shave balm, the aromas of the gloves, the peppers — it lends to the interactive experience as well,” said Cari White, a regional director for the Art of Shaving.