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Eyebrows were raised when Matthews Studio Equipment Inc., a grip manufacturer since 1970 for the movie and TV industry, went public in 1989 and launched itself into the rental business. Merging with company after company--starting with Hollywood Rental Company Inc. (HRC) and its subsidiary, Expendable Supply Store Inc. (ESS)--and spreading to locations from Miami to Seattle, and Nashville to Phoenix, has steadily increased the buzz about Matthews' intentions. Now that its latest acquisitions,

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