I am talking about exclusive, limited edition, high quality, collector pieces that adults and children can only purchase at the theater.
We in the toy industry have, for decades, relied on movies and movie theaters to provide us with action-packed movies. Movies that have generated a multitude of toy tie-ins, which have in turn delivered billions of dollars in revenues. That symbiotic relationship is, however, about to be severely tested.
The Coronavirus has not been kind to movie theaters. AMC theaters, the largest theater chain in the world, has stated in a Securities and Exchange Commission report that they have “substantial doubt” that they can continue to exist.
Things are no different in China. A BBC headline says it all: “Thousand of cinemas in China under threat of closure.” The article is bleak in its assessment:
There are now more than 12,000 cinemas in China, according to market research firm IBISWorld….But four out of 10 said they “are very likely to close” in the near future, according to the China Film Association survey. This could mean nearly 5,000 cinemas going bust as a result of the pandemic.
With theaters closing and consumers finding that they can enjoy a movie in their family room, theaters will need compelling reasons for movie fans to return. They will also require additional sources of revenue. One such source will be for theaters to sell, in their lobbies, licensed toys that tie in with whatever movie they are showing. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about inexpensive toys; I am talking about exclusive, limited edition, high quality, collector pieces that adults and children can only purchase at the theater.
If you have ever attended ComicCon, you know how popular collectible toys are. There are literally lines to get in line to purchase newly released movie related toys from Marvel, DC, and other intellectual property holders. It is astounding how many people are willing to spend a lot of money on a rare Spiderman, Batman, or Star Wars figure.
Diamond Select Toys, NECA, McFarlane, and other companies offer a multitude of movie tie-in toys and would certainly be willing to work with theaters to provide exclusives. Theaters can also enter into arrangements with local comic book retailers who sell collectible toys. They could allow the retailer to set up a display in the theater, handle the sales, and share the profits.
Toys cannot save the movie theater industry, but they can provide a badly needed source of revenue. If I were a company that sells collectible, movie tie-in toys, I would reach out to the movie theater industry and see what kind of business model can be jointly developed.
I think it’s a win-win at a very crucial time.