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In distress' Sell De Niro shorts

New York, Dec. 12 (Reuters): Troubled restaurant chain Planet Hollywood is unloading some of its vast collection of film memorabilia, giving movie buffs the chance to bid on everything from a bullfighter costume worn by Rudolph Valentino to Robert De Niro’s boxing shorts in Raging Bull.

The movie-themed restaurant chain, which expects to emerge soon from its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganisation, hopes to sell more than 300 costumes and props in an auction at Sotheby’s in New York on Saturday.

Planet Hollywood is shedding part of its 40,000-piece collection, including costumes worn by stars such as Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Yul Brynner, because it had closed some restaurants and had less space to decorate, said Robert Earl, the company’s chief executive. He also wants to make room for new acquisitions to the collection.

“We felt that we could release some of our collection,” Earl said this week.“What’s the point of having a large collection just sitting in a warehouse'”

The sale represents one of the biggest auctions of Hollywood memorabilia in the past five years, said Leila Dunbar, director of the collectibles department at Sotheby’s.

Items up for grabs include the peach satin nightgown Rita Hayworth wore in a famous World War II pinup poster, estimated by Sotheby’s to bring in $15,000 to $18,000, and Valentino’s jewel-encrusted bullfighter costume from the 1922 film Blood and Sand, estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. The maroon leather boxing gloves and black satin shorts De Niro wore in the 1980 film Raging Bull are estimated at $2,500 to $3,000.

Sotheby’s estimates the price tag for all the items in the live auction at up to $1.5 million, plus $400,000 for an online auction of television memorabilia that runs through Monday.

Planet Hollywood’s total collection is worth about $30 million, Earl said.

The auction should provide some cash for the restaurant chain but likely would not make a huge contribution to the Orlando, Florida-based company’s finances, said Ron Paul, president of food industry consultant Technomic Inc in Chicago.

“Given the problems that they’ve experienced, it doesn’t seem to me to be a significant corporate action,” he said.

Planet Hollywood, whose original backers included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, has about 35 restaurants in cities such as New York, Paris and Las Vegas, down from more than 50. The company filed for Chapter 11 reorganisation in October 2001, citing a tourism slump after the September 11 attacks on the US.

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