An Austin art institution becomes a big business – or a business, depending on who you ask. This morning, Alamo Drafthouse announced that it has sold its Mondo collectibles arm to pop culture giant Funko.
The sale, for an undisclosed amount, has been in the works for several months. At that time, Alamo Founder/Executive Chairman and Mondo Co-Founder Tim League said in a statement, “We searched extensively to find a perfect partner who saw what was unique and special about Mondo and was able to invest significantly in Mondo, nurture the team, and expand its reach and vision.Funko is exactly that unicorn.
In a press release, Funko CEO Andrew Perlmutter called Mondo the “perfect addition to Funko’s current portfolio of brands”, adding that the sale represents “an exciting opportunity to couple the already stellar assortment and aesthetic of Mondo with Funko’s enormous library of properties. … By leveraging our international distribution and licensing network, we feel well positioned to accelerate the growth of the Mondo brand.”
Comment via Twitter During the acquisition, Mondo co-founder and creative director Mitch Putnam tried to allay fears that the single brand would be diluted: by calling the next step “Mondo 2”, he wrote, “We We entered this process incredibly keen to keep Mondo authentic and familiar, and we left the process 100% comfortable with our new partners.”
League went on to confirm that current staff, who have played an absolutely critical role in forming the relationships with artists and licensees on which Mondo’s reputation has been built, will remain with the company. He added, “I wish everyone on the Mondo team the best and look forward to all that lies ahead, with the notable exception of losing my employee discount.”
A Mondo story: dirty harry (2010) by Olly Moss, Cinemania (2004) by Rob Jones, Upside down 7″ cover (2016) by Phantom City Creative, Lemora (2003) by Lester Smolensky, office space (2009) by Todd Slater, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) by Olly Moss, Frankenstein’s curse (2018) by Francesco Francavilla (Images courtesy of Mondo)
The news represents the apparent completion of an ongoing process within the Drafthouse to focus on the management of theaters, a process that really began in 2020 with the sale of Birth.Movies.Death., its magazine brand. Drafthouse Films, the arthouse distribution wing, was briefly revived in 2021 for the US release of the Indian Oscar shortlist, Jallikatubut has not released any films since.
However, Mondo’s sale is more surprising as it has been an integral part of Drafthouse’s identity since the chain’s early days. Officially launched in 2004 as Mondo Tees, it was little more than the t-shirt stand at the original Alamo location in Colorado. The first prints were promotional posters for Alamo events, but over time they expanded into licensed prints for properties as diverse as game of thronesindie horror The Blackcoat’s Daughterand Terrence Mallick The tree of life. In 2012, he opened the Mondo gallery, enabling it to host high-level thematic exhibitions. Under co-founder and senior creative director Rob Jones, he’s connected artists like Austin’s Francesco Francavilla, Jock, Ken Taylor and Becky Cloonan with properties spanning Marvel’s avengers to Robert Eggers The witchwith the Mondo name alone enough to make any print instantly collectible.
Over the past two decades, Mondo has become a nationally recognized brand, leading the revolution in artist collectible prints making short-run posters for major licensed properties. It is also diversified into pins, tiki mugs, sculptures, puzzles and high-end collectible toys, as well as music through its labels Mondo Records and Death Waltz Records.
During the pandemic, the gallery was forced to close permanently, but Mondo’s online presence was a vital part of the Drafthouse’s survival – indeed, by the time the chain entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Mondo was the only division to turn a profit. His prints are so collectible that League sold his private collection of Mondo posters to help defray operating expenses.
Here is Mondo’s statement in full:
You may have already heard that Mondo has a new parent company: Funko. Let’s talk about it.
For 20 years we’ve poured our hearts and souls into this weird little thing that Rob Jones and Tim League started in a closet in the corner of an Alamo Drafthouse lobby…and then in a closet under the seats of a Drafthouse auditorium (seriously). Eventually, we opened our own gallery space and even launched our own convention.
We’ve always loved following our passions and doing things our way, and we’ll be forever grateful to Alamo Drafthouse for supporting those passions and helping us become who we are today. But we needed a bigger boat…and that’s where Funko comes in. They understand what Mondo is today and are eager to help us become the company we want to be.
From the outside, Mondo may look different…but inside, a lot of things stay the same. We remain the same team and our objectives remain unchanged. We’re still the same bunch of weirdos who share an undying obsession with popular (and maybe less popular) culture and a desire to do cool stuff with the best artists in the world.
We’re still the same company that started in the theater lobby…only now with even more resources to support our vision. We can’t wait to show you what’s next.
The response from collectors on social media has been mixed, to say the least. Many long-time Mondophiles see Funko as the enemy, often with a particular hatred for its ubiquitous Pop figures, with their oversized heads and streamlined lines. For them, the company’s mass production of merchandise, funneling all intellectual property through the Funko model, is the exact opposite of what Mondo should be. However, there has also been some support for the movement: Mondo’s super limited mintages have been part of what made it attractive to collectors, but also led to disappointment when items sold out in seconds. , only to appear a few minutes later at highly inflated prices on the secondary market. It’s unclear if the Funko acquisition will change that pattern, or what it will mean for Mondo’s presence in Drafthouse locations. At the same time, there were growing criticisms of delayed releases and deliveries, as brand reputation and the massively increased product line put stress on the store’s operation. Comparisons have been drawn to Funko’s 2017 acquisition of California-based accessories company Loungefly, which retained its reputation for premium products while becoming more widely available.
Long-time Mondo artist Daniel Danger summed up the potential pros and cons when he Tweeted“I admit I burst out laughing when I heard. But if it ultimately helps with production time, pressing times, licensing, artist payments, being able to do big events, the global reach, and all my old friends are always there to make sure we’re taken care of, so whatever.”