Merchandising and the Movies : Marketing: Filmgoers will be bombarded with products and promotions tied to summer blockbusters.
It’s not just the kids who are being targeted by movie merchandise tie-ins during this summer’s blitz of big-budgeted films. Adults are going to have their share of the gimmickry too.
It’s all part of the summer movie sweepstakes, as studios look for more ways to bring attention--and audiences--to their films.
As the year’s busiest moviegoing season, summer accounts for 40% of the year’s total grosses. (Per Hollywood’s calendar, “summer” kicked off Friday--with the release of Universal Pictures’ “Bird on a Wire” and Orion Pictures’ “Cadillac Man"--and continues through Labor Day.)
Last year, that 40% came to $2 billion in domestic ticket sales. (U.S. and Canadian ticket sales account for domestic figures.) Little wonder that Hollywood is pulling out all stops in the marketing of the summer’s crop of movies.
In what promises to be one of the season’s leading tie-ins--and what is said to be the biggest-ever tie-in between a fast-food enterprise and a movie--McDonald’s is teaming with Walt Disney Pictures’ “Dick Tracy.” The fast-food chain is sponsoring the Dick Tracy Crimestoppers’ Game, a lottery-style contest that allows customers to solve crimes and catch bad guys. (The sleuthing is via “scratch-off” cards.)
Kicking off in early June, the contest will continue through the summer, offering a whopping $40 million in cash and prizes (including food items).
Paramount Pictures’ “Days of Thunder” will have some 30 licensees--despite the fact that star Tom Cruise refused to allow his likeness to be used. Meanwhile, RoboCop--star of Orion Pictures’ “RoboCop 2"--who has already been on toy shelves for two years, will inspire new products. There are also tie-ins for films including Universal Pictures’ “The Jetsons,” Warner Bros.’ “Gremlins II: The New Batch” and Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”
Among the promotions are:
* “Bird on a Wire"--BMW automobile and motorcycle dealers will be promoting the movie (in which a BMW co-stars). There’ll also be promos at Subway Sandwiches, which also tied into star Mel Gibson’s last big hit, “Lethal Weapon 2.”
* “Days of Thunder"--There’ll be fashions, including raceway jackets in the hot neon colors seen in the movie. Plus a wide range of race-car toys, including the remote-controlled variety, ride-on kiddie cars, Tiger Electronics’ stock car race driving simulation game (which comes complete with sound effects) and Nintendo games. Plus, the film will be promoted by Chevrolet and Exxon (both are said to be featured onscreen), and have a tie-in with Hardee’s fast food.
* “Gremlins II: The New Batch"--Though the creatures from Warner Bros. left many licensees burning last time around (recall the startled outcries among parents over the violence in 1984’s “Gremlins”), they’re baaaaack , in a licensing program that includes wristwatches, Nintendo games, kids’ clothes, computer software, figurines, and plush toys and hand puppets of the movie’s cute Gizmo gremlin. Plus tie-ins with Quality Inns and Sunkist.
* “Jetsons: The Movie"--Kids and baby boomers who grew up with Hanna-Barbera’s animated 21st-Century family make up the target markets for what one merchandising analyst called “the possible sleeper of the season.” The Universal Pictures title has generated some 500 items, from nearly 60 licensees, that run the gamut from toys and gifts to wallpaper to $200 denim and leather jackets. There are food tie-ins too: Wendy’s will offer a “Jetsons’ ” kids’ meal, plus four special Jetsons’ cups (featuring George Jetson, teen-age Judy, Astro the Dog and Ellroy the son). Also, some 25 million packets of Kool-Aid Coolers will tout the film (with games, and little coupons that kids can send in for Jetsons’ items/or turn in at local theaters for a little Jetson toy.)
* “RoboCop 2"--The man of metal will have more than 60 licensees, adding new toys, clothing, books, computer softwear and other items to his roster.
* Plus, Disney’s reissue of “The Jungle Book” will have a McDonald’s “Happy Meal.” And Disney’s “Ducktales--The Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp” will have a Hi-C tie-in. (There’s already an avalanche of “Ducktales” toys, hatched by the TV series.)
Consumers can also expect to see merchandise in support of Touchstone Pictures’ “Fire Birds,” Orion’s “Navy SEALS,” Tri-Star Pictures’ “Total Recall” and Universal Pictures’ “Back to the Future III.” The latter is being promoted by companies including Western Union, which puts in a pivotal “appearance” at the end of “Back to the Future II” (when star Michael J. Fox receives a telegram that sends him on the journey to Part III.)
Even Touchstone’s spider thriller “Arachnophobia” will have tie-ins, including an electronic board game that’s expected to be in the stores by Christmas: It features a creepy motorized spider.
As for Disney’s “Tracy,” fans will be able to choose from hundreds of items featuring the detective, Madonna’s Breathless Mahoney moll character and others--including a goon squad led by Al Pacino’s Big Boy.
Indeed, the comic-book detective--bearing star/director Warren Beatty’s likeness--will be blazing into specialty shops, department and discount stores, hoping to nab even greater success than last year’s $500-million licensing hero, Batman. The massive McDonald’s tie-in will include a series of three plastic cups, bearing the likenesses of Tracy, Breathless and the orphan known as the Kid.
The fast-food chain’s Tracy attack will be heralded by a hefty advertising push--including TV commercials in which McDonald’s customers find themselves transported to Tracy’s fantasy world.
“Tracy” will also be promoted on some 40 million boxes of Quaker products (including every Quaker cereal). Kids, save those premiums so you can send in for items like Tracy pencil boxes and games!
Still other licensees hope to arrest interest with myriad toys for kids and adults, including dolls ($15-$30), wrist walkie talkies ($19.99), a talking LCD wrist computer game (under $20), and “crimestoppers kits” with badges, flashlights, handcuffs and police barricade tape ($19.99).
Will “Tracy” trigger fashion trends? There’ll be yellow fedoras ($40), leather bomber jackets ($175), and trench coats for both kids ($25-$30) and adults (the one offered exclusively through Bloomingdale’s sells for $345; ads for the trench read, “Come Rain or Crime”). For Breathless wanna-bes, the 100-plus Macy’s stores will heavily push items including L.A. Glo’s Breathless Mahoney Collection of stretch satin, sequined and feathered evening wear ($76-$152).
Already, sales of “Tracy” T-shirts--the EKG of licensed merchandise--look to be booming. “What I’m seeing right now from direct sales to department stores--that is, first orders without reorders or backups--shows that if the movie is strong, it will be bigger for our company than ‘Batman,’ ” reports Lance Walsky, president of J.G. Hook’s United Stars of America division.
(That’s big, considering the firm sold a combined total of about 1.5 million “Batman” boxer shorts and T-shirts.)
But wait, there’s more: Tracy shower curtains ($14.99), drapes ($20-$25), backpacks ($15) and, in the words of one retailer, “too many key chains and pieces of costume jewelry to talk about.”
Pricewise, “Tracy” pencils, costing $3, are among the least-expensive items; they’re from Applause Inc., which is also producing character mugs, figurines, gift bags and more. Among the costliest mementos: $5,000 crystal-bedecked character mirrors from designer Wendy Gell.
Gell’s creations are already a hit with at least one buyer: “Warren ordered 150 collectibles for his movie-star friends,” reveals the designer, who also fashioned an upscale line of “Tracy” costume jewelry, priced at $30 into the hundreds.
Can Tracy boom in a year that’s already seen licensing bonanzas with New Line Cinema’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and Fox Broadcasting’s hit TV series “The Simpsons”?
Disney would not officially comment on its merchandise program, which has taken more than a year to assemble. (According to sources both inside and outside the company, Disney had contractual agreements from many of the licensees stipulating that they wouldn’t discuss their products with the media in advance of the various firm’s planned publicity blitz.) But some outside experts believe “Tracy” is well positioned to become a merchandise record-breaker--that is, if the film succeeds.
Harold Vogel, entertainment industry analyst for Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, is among those who believe that unlike “Batman” and “Turtles,” “Tracy” licensing is being driven primarily by items aimed at the adult market.
“The character appeals to an older age spectrum, which is good and bad,” he says, explaining, “It’s good because adults buy higher-priced merchandise, bad because adults are not as quick to fall for these things.”
Pat H. Broeske also contributed to this story.