On Location: ‘80s TV series ‘Jem and the Holograms’ gets big-screen treatment

Molly Ringwald
Actress Molly Ringwald, one of the stars of the new movie “Jem and the Holograms,” appears at a book-signing event in Brentwood in 2012.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

About five weeks before they began filming “Jem and the Holograms” in Los Angeles, producers of the movie took an unusual step by Hollywood standards.

They announced plans to revive the 1980s cult TV series in a video to their fans posted on the social media website Tumblr. But the producers weren’t on the video asking for financial contributions from a crowd-funding site.

Instead, director Jon M. Chu urged fans to contribute to the creative process by pitching their own ideas for the script. They even urged people to audition for acting, singing and dancing parts in the film, which follows the adventures of pop star Jem and her bandmates.

“Within four hours of the posting, we got 1,000 submissions,” said Jason Blum, one of the film’s producers, who also appears on the video. “We got a huge response.”


Blum, Chu and talent manager and music industry executive Scooter Braun have partnered with Hasbro Studios to bring the popular 1980s animated TV series to the big screen.

“Jem and the Holograms” marks the latest Hollywood venture for toy and board game giant Hasbro Inc., based in Pawtucket, R.I.

Hasbro Studios, the Los Angeles-based entertainment division of Hasbro, has built a lucrative TV and film business, licensing and developing its toy brands for the popular “Transformer” movies. The company also does the same with Paramount’s upcoming “G.I. Joe 3,” Universal’s “Ouija” and Sony’s “Candy Land.”

Production on “Jem and the Holograms” wrapped last week after filming 25 days in Los Angeles at various locations, including the Santa Monica Pier and Los Angeles Center Studios.


The film, which stars Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis and Aubrey Peeples, will be distributed by Universal Pictures, which is co-financing the project with Hasbro. No release date has been set.

“Jem and the Holograms” was a top-rated animation television series with an associated line of dolls when it ran in syndication from 1985 to 1988. Part of the show’s appeal to the MTV generation was its novel use of music videos and songs in each episode.

The series became a hit in multiple countries and was later released on DVD. More recently, the series aired on the Hub Network.

The big-screen revival of the TV series aims to be a modern take on the mysterious pop star Jem, and follows the band through Los Angeles on a musical adventure.


“Jem” is an unconventional choice for Blum, who is better known for producing low-budget horror flicks such as “Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious” and “The Purge.”

“What we’re looking for is low-budget, high-concept movies and nine times out of 10 it’s horror, but every so often something else fits, and this is one of those movies,” said Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions.

He said Jem’s appeal remains strong around the world, including in France.

“We have buyers from every territory asking us about this movie,” he said. “Jem really permeated the culture in a great way and had that female empowerment aspect to it.”


As part of the process, fans were encouraged to send in their ideas and post two-minute audition videos demonstrating their acting, singing and dancing skills.

“We want to invite you into our process and help us make our next movie from writing music to designing costumes to even casting,” Chu says in the Tumblr video. “It’s sort of like Kickstarter, but rather than asking for money we’re asking for your creativity.”

At least one fan landed a speaking part and several became extras as a result of the auditions, Blum said.

Unlike most of his peers, Blum says he shoots most of his movies locally on shoestring budgets. His films typically cost less than $5 million to make.


“We just find shooting movies in L.A. we have access to much, much better talent on all sides of the camera than in tax-incentive states that are very busy with very expensive movies,” he said.

Get our daily Envelope newsletter

The Awards and Industry Insider brings you exclusive awards season coverage, the business of show business and more.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.