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How a box of “The Notebook” tissues became Broadway's hottest merch

Move over magnets and mugs, it's time for tissues to shine.

When The Notebook premiered on the big screen 2004, it instantly achieved classic tearjerker status — and now Broadway is putting the story's ability to get the tear ducts flowing to good use.

The love story, based on Nicholas Sparks' novel of the same name, has now been transformed into a musical opening March 14 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway, and it's just as emotional on stage as it was on screen. With a book by Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us) and music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson, the decade-spanning romance between Noah and Allie is ready to tug at the heart strings of a new audience. And if you find yourself crying your eyes out during the show, the merch team has you covered — selling a souvenir box of tissues for $5.

<p>Courtesy of Creative Goods Merchandise</p> 'The Notebook' tissues

Courtesy of Creative Goods Merchandise

'The Notebook' tissues


There's been plenty of sad shows to hit the Great White Way, but this is the first time tissues have been turned into merchandise — and it was all the brain child of Creative Goods CEO Pete Milano.

"I sat through those two early iterations of the show and the running joke I would say in the office was, 'Everybody needs a tissue in this show. It's so emotional,'" he tells EW. "I'm not a big crier, so when I'm sitting in a room with 50 people crying at a reading, I wished I would've had a tissue. That stayed true again in [the pre-Broadway tryout] in Chicago, and I just felt like it had to be done."

<p>Courtesy of Creative Goods Merchandise</p> 'The Notebook' tissues

Courtesy of Creative Goods Merchandise

'The Notebook' tissues

Typically, Creative Goods waits to fully develop its merchandise ideas until Broadway previews. They'll have the usual suspects — t-shirts, coffee mugs, magnets, key chains, etc. — ready to go, but when it comes to more creative and show-specific items, they'll often wait to gauge audience reaction before brainstorming.

"We let the source material drive our creative development," Milano says. "It could be lyrics from the show; it could be unique set pieces; it could be themes; it could be literal or non-literal. Every single show we try to come up with three to five unique things. During previews, we see our audience reaction and we understand what they're looking at on stage and what they're reacting to."

But this time Milano already knew what everyone would need. With his own tears in mind, Milano pitched his team, who handle developing merchandise for numerous Broadway production, on the prospect of creating a tissue box they could sell.

"We went through the process of finding the perfect little size memento that had enough tissues," he explains. "It wasn't just put it in your purse size; it wasn't big, put it in your bathroom size. We went through a whole R&D process of the perfect merch tissue box. The little pouch felt like promo, like a giveaway, and a big box felt not good for the consumer. We went down this rabbit hole of what was actually available, and when we came across this four inch by four inch box, it made too much sense not to do it. We thought it was a funny little gag, and it's become the second best seller in the theater."

<p>Courtesy of Creative Goods Merchandise</p> 'The Notebook: The Musical' tissues

Courtesy of Creative Goods Merchandise

'The Notebook: The Musical' tissues


Part of that is likely due to the box's low price point. At only $5, it is one of the cheapest souvenirs for sale in any Broadway theater, which was completely by design. "We did that on purpose," adds Milano. "The idea was you can take it and you can use it. You can take it home, but it's supposed to be easily accessible and fun."

It's paid off — the internet is littered with TikTok posts and Instagram reels showcasing the tissues (often post-use). In fact, "before and after" videos became such a thing that the show's own social team edited together a video of them.

One TikTok user complained that the tissues were too thin for the copious amount of tears she shed. "These are baby tissues," said user TheaterKates. "My tears were not baby sized. The need for snot recovery was not baby sized."

The show also shared a screengrab of a post that includes a box of the tissues and the caption, "If you see the guy clutching this box of tissues in the back row, mind your business."

"It's fun, but useful," reflects Milano. "It's fun to see the momentum growing in theater circles."

But does Milano have plans to make tissue boxes at sad shows ubiquitous? After all, The Notebook is hardly the first or the last production destined to make people cry. He's not ruling it out, but it would have to be a special show — one that has a similar throughline of emotionality like the one in The Notebook that moved him to tears.

"My grandmother had Alzheimer's," he explains. "It's such a personal story that everybody can get into in a different way. It's just the story of life and their journey. It's not one moment per se, it's the overall vibe. It's not a bad cry, it's just an emotional cry."

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Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.