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Year-round 'Star Wars' toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue

Year-round 'Star Wars' toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Elite Series characters. (Richard Drew)

Year-round "Star Wars" hype is giving a boost to Hollywood's merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

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Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two "Star Wars" installments as bookends: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which was released in December 2015, and "Rogue One," which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

"In 2016, you had a full year of sales of 'Star Wars' merchandise," Brochstein said. "Obviously that helped on the entertainment side."

Other major films, especially merchandise-friendly children's sequels including "Finding Dory," gave the business a leg up this year. The uptick also reflects a 2016 box-office season in which Hollywood franchises lifted the annual ticket sales to $11.4 billion in the United States and Canada.

Besides movies, the licensing association credited the Pokemon Go mobile game craze and the animated Nickelodeon series "Paw Patrol" with increasing merchandise sales for retailers. Besides toys and apparel, product categories include home decor, games and infant and pet gear.

Character- and entertainment-based products make up the biggest segment of the licensed merchandise business. The category generated 45% of global sales for the entire merchandising sector in 2016, the association said.

Total licensing sales -- which also include products based on sports, colleges and corporate logos -- were $263 billion, up 4% from the prior year, the group said.

This year, U.S. toy and clothing retailers are anticipating sales related to movies like "Wonder Woman," "Despicable Me 3," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and of course, another "Star Wars."

In a sign of the importance of merchandising to their bottom lines, studios and toy makers have increasingly promoted new products with dedicated events, including "Force Friday," when companies launch their new "Star Wars" products, and Hasbro's newly created Hascon convention. Both are in September.

"Companies have gotten better and better at translating these big properties into merchandise and creating the marketing to support that," Brochstein said.

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