Normally I’d attempt to extensively expand upon a news item and examine what it means in terms of Hollywood trends, but I don’t have time for all that today, not with my computer acting up (damn Windows 10 Creators update!). So, short and sweet:

In a recent profile of Pam Lifford, President of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, The New York Times highlighted just how important toy sales are becoming to Hollywood’s bottom line. With global ticket sales stalled and the home video market shrinking, all of the studios other than Disney have suffered. So, everyone else in town is looking to Disney to see how to do things, and WB, Fox and Universal have even gone as far as poaching away Disney executives to head up their respective consumer productions divisions.

Lifford, for example, spent 12 years in Disney’s Consumer Products, rising as high as executive vice president. Ever since taking over at WB in 2015, profit has increased 47%, a direct result of her aggressive licensing and immediate efforts to reshape the division in Disney’s image, which means establishing various IP silos to build around. In WB’s case, those silos are Harry Potter, DC Comics and classic cartoons, which is how we’ve ended up with a line of DC Superhero Girls toys, cartoons, movies and now a Cartoon Network series set to launch next year. Lifford wants to turn Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, Wonder Woman and the rest into WB’s equivalent of Disney Princesses.

That’s all fine and good, but what really stood out to me was the Times‘ statistic that by the end of the year 25 major studio movies will have flooded shelves with official tie-in toys. The annual average in the past has been 8.  I don’t know what I find more startling – that there are 25 movies this year with tie-in toys (which seems very high) or that the annual average is usually just 8 (which seems astonishingly low). However, when everyone’s trying to be Disney the market is bound to flooded with merchandise.

Should toys continue to be a growth sector for the studios we may be entering a phase where more and more major films are not saved by home video but instead by toys. For example, The Power Rangers toys are flying off the shelves so fast there’s talk that Lionsgate might move forward with a sequel even though the film largely fizzled out at the box office after its opening weekend. However, with this level of aggressive merchandising we might be looking at the perfect recipe for a lot of unsold toys since consumers might eventually decide enough is enough. Should that happen Hollywood will surely just find some other revenue stream to leverage and exploit. But for now if you’re a parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent and feel like there are more movie-related toys in stores than usual these days you’re not wrong.

And now this:

Source: New York Times

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

2 Comments

  1. Its all about the toys. Its the reason batman in the late 80s went from cool to naff by the 90s. Its the reason George Lucas is minted today from the original trilogy and prequeks. In all cases who cares if the films did well. They just need to be an advert for 2 hours. Oh look the power ranger has a bew sword and played vy a distinctly new actor. Time to change the toy kids. And kets not forget the fanboys who buy them abd have more disposable income. The latest walking dead action figures or game of thrones toys aren’t for kids you know. And dont get me started on doctor who and the lame attempt to introduce new bright coloured daleks in time for xmas years ago. The UK doesnt quite have the same marketing skills unfortunately. And finallyhow does all tgis merchandise affect reboots? The reset button has been hitbwith spiderman twice now so does thst affect toys and things? I dont know. I assume you have one web crawler you have them all. Who cares if the eyes and logo are different on the figure. He is red and blue and instantly recognisable right? And when are you going to do a peice on the merits of reboots/remakes. Are they a good thing or bad?

    Reply

    1. Yeah, the go, go power Daleks were terrible.

      In general, the long history the film and TV industries have with toys is one which continually drives home the point that this is a business. High-rated kids shows like Young Justice which don’t sell toys have violated their primary reason for being (to sell toys) and are thus cancelled. Han Solo gets to live on beyond Return of the Jedi because Lucas didn’t see much future in dead Han Solo toys. McDonalds and the toy companies get to dictate plot points to Batman & Robin (a fact mocked in Watchmen). Heck, the current reign of Marvel Studios only happened because the people who bought Marvel out of bankruptcy were toy manufactuers who became convinced that the best way to spur Marvel toy sales was to make some live action movies.

      “And when are you going to do a peice on the merits of reboots/remakes. Are they a good thing or bad?”

      I discussed this briefly over on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/weminoredinfilmcom/inbox/1108069045960426/?notif_t=page_wall&notif_id=1496261372405191&selected_item_id=1108069045960426). I can put something more extensive together later this week related to The Mummy perhaps, if you’d like.

      Reply

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