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May 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 5
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Hollywood ToyBoy: Will Blockbuster Toys Sell?

Movie Merch Suffers Under Discriminating Eyes


“Kids aren’t as dumb as they used to be.”
“Where’s my new AirBook? Did you take it again?” I yell to my shell-shocked assistant, who is looking for my super-thin notebook yet again. She finds it between the day’s issues of the “Reporter” and the “Wall Street Journal.” You can never be too rich or too thin ... but sometimes you can get lost too easily. But hey, it’s the latest, so I gotta have it. Which takes us to this summer and the latest merchandizing for big blockbusters.

SALES OF THE UNCERTAIN

“Iron Man? Bad heart, prosthetic arms and legs ... no one would give him a second glance in the real world,” ranted a studio exec friend of mine, deep into his third vodka-tonic.

“The movie’s going to be huge, but the merchandise landscape has changed so much in the last three years that action figures, board games and costumes are uncertain.”

Uncertain? Didn’t it used to be “big picture, big merchandise”?

“‘Spider-Man 2’ had the first suspicious tremors,” explained an international toy broker specializing in movie and television franchises. “The action toys didn’t spike too high, and even the costumes, although excellent sellers, didn’t really do what they should, compared to the movie gross. Blame it on quality. It seems kids aren’t as dumb as they used to be.”

TEXTING MAKES OR BREAKS

“Hulk Hands were a phenomenon, but Thing Hands ... not so much,” extrapolated a vice president for a mega-huge film distributor.

“With the Internet, IM’ing, text messages and being born with lifetime minutes, kids communicate so much faster these days that the ‘word’ gets out like the shockwave from an explosion. It’s so quick, merchandise can die in less than a week from stocking.”

PICKY VIEWERS TOSS JUNK

So even with a giant blockbuster, merchandise isn’t necessarily a sure thing?

A very smart ex-chemist-turned-entertainment-lawyer smiled between bites of sushi: “Funny, we try to teach our children to respect money and only buy quality, and when they do it, we go ballistic. Kids don’t want junk. And they know better now, at least better than we did. And they talk to each other about it.”

Will big merchandise come with this year’s big films? “Iron Man” is the best bet for costumes and some action toys if handled well. The new Indiana Jones? Sorry, a good video game, maybe ... “Speed Racer?” Some good merch for the younger set (from slot cars to collectibles); a good video game in the making. Narnia? Not a chance.

So, if I can fire up my totally sexy, thin and losable laptop, I’ll start to keep tabs on who’s failing in the toy-after-blockbuster department so that next summer we can be wary. Movies and toys ain’t what they used to be....



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Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author

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