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July 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 7




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Hollywood ToyBoy: The End (of Mass Market) Is Near


“How many pirate ships can a child own?”
Blockbuster merchandise isn’t selling as well as everyone thought it would.

Spidey, Pirates, Shrek: the big three. “Hey, my corner of the zoo is doing great,” mentioned a publicist for one of the said movies (and I won’t spill which, ‘cause then she’d never talk to me again). “But I hear grumbles from the merches. A drop of 30 percent in toys and the other oddities. Brains are exploding already.”

Thirty percent? That’s creeping toward a billion dollars in sales. Middle-management suits will be pointing fingers faster than the finalists at the Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe Championships in Stockholm last year. It’s like having your car stolen with your wallet in it … and your second trophy wife! But up until now, I hadn’t heard a peep.

So I did a little Raymond Chandlering. I bought umbrella’d drinks, smiled like a shark and whispered sweet nothings into ears. Confirmation came from a buddy of mine who was cameraman on a sequel to a sequel. “Studio execs have been hammering the director for product placement like you wouldn’t believe. Somebody’s running scared.”

Because the toys aren’t selling.

TOO MANY SHIPS IN THE SEA

“Look, they weren’t very original this year,” consoled a television greenlighter from one of the Big Three Letter companies. “I saw the ads. My kids saw the ads. Nothing new, and the buyers knew it. The movies were fine, but the merchandisers got lazy. How many pirate ships can a child own? They have sails, they have cannons, what?”

Everyone thought it was a slam dunk. And they got lazy.

That’s the problem with sequels. They’re rarely as good as the originals. Same for toys. Which is more valuable now: the first Star Wars figurines, or the latest Baba Yaga Feta Cheese Hutt? The first is always more interesting because, well ... it’s the first.

LOOK FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Fortunately, a lot of little retailers bypass sequel-itis and go “independent” ― just like the movies. Then, when the blockbusters bomb and the sequels sag ... they have the odd, the strange, the different.

Oh, they might start a few trends that get gobbled up by The Man (hey, Sonderbergh got his start indie), but the real gold is in being their own store.

Isn’t that cool?

So, if you haven’t yet found your niche, and there are too many green plush ogres on your shelves, pick and choose, look under stones … or on the Internet … even look ... (dare I say it?) to TDmonthly Magazine … to find the toys that Hollywood hasn’t even dreamed of yet.

Then, going to the toy store will be about the toys — not about the latest $150,000,000 ads they call movies.

Retailers of the world, un-unite! You have nothing to lose but sameness.



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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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