John Joslyn, owner of the Titanic museum, never thought his career would lead from Hollywood to Branson.
Joslyn had a long stint in TV before opening museum attractions. He was a network executive with NBC in Chicago and CBS in Los Angeles, before forming Westgate Entertainment Corp. in 1980. The production company worked on the series "Return of the Lone Ranger" and a program covering entertainment news that was a forerunner of "Entertainment Tonight." Syndicated by News Information Weekly Service, it attracted 175 subscriber stations in its first year.
Westgate's success prompted Universal Pictures to recruit Joslyn in 1981. There, he pioneered a new marketing strategy for the industry, the electronic press kit, or EPK, a tool that created marketing buzz for major studio film releases. In the process, Joslyn worked closely with studio executives, filmmakers and stars, including Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Mel Gibson, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Burt Reynolds.
Joslyn segued into TV production in 1986, serving as executive producer for more than a dozen high-profile syndicated and network specials, including two programs that he says hold records as the highest-rated syndicated specials of all-time: "The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults" (1986) and "Return to the Titanic ... LIVE" (1987). The shows were viewed by a combined 50 million U.S. households, he says.
"That sparked our interest in the Titanic, although I didn't realize at the time that I was going to make a career change because of it," Joslyn says.
Joslyn and wife Mary Kellogg-Joslyn developed their first Titanic attraction in 1999 in Orlando through a partnership with SFX Entertainment. The couple opened the Titanic-Branson museum in 2006.
"We had to build something iconic," Joslyn says, noting that artists from Europe, who had worked for Disney and Silver Dollar City, helped bring his vision to life.
"In our business, the decision maker of our product is women," Joslyn says. "Our attraction had to have what we call the 'nag factor,' which means the kids will tell their mom they want to see something."
The Joslyns share the duties of their Cedar Bay Entertainment company. Kellogg-Joslyn, who had a long career as a vice president at Walt Disney, oversees marketing and advertising, and Joslyn, who admits he dislikes dealing with the day-to-day minutia, overseas bigger-picture finances and planning.
"It was a bit of a power struggle at first, because we both have strong personalities," Joslyn says. "I used to kick her out of the office once a day. We never thought we could work together, but it's terrific."
The couple will open a new Titanic museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in April 2010. The $25 million, 30,000-square-foot ship replica will feature hundreds of artifacts, interactive galleries, onboard photographs and will tell Titanic's legendary stories. Another location is slated for New York in 2012.