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Hollywood heavyweights play to big-screen strength at BL ’07

IN its ninth year now, Brand Licensing is returning to the Grand Hall at Olympia in London. And as they prepare to join this year's 180-odd exhibitors, Hollywood's major movie studios are planning to make a big impact on potential licensees and retailers using the primary tool of their trade - the big 'ole silver screen. After a successful trial run at last year's event, the screening suite has returned to Brand Licensing at twice its previous size. Capacity now sits at more than 200, and feature film players have booked time to tease trailers and pitch prospective partners on upcoming film properties, aided by the cinema-sized screen in a theater-style setting. The suite allows licensors to separate screenings from meetings, giving them a better chance to put more focus on other priorities. Here's a glimpse of what the studios will be screening during BL's two-day run from October 2 to 3.
September 1, 2007

IN its ninth year now, Brand Licensing is returning to the Grand Hall at Olympia in London. And as they prepare to join this year’s 180-odd exhibitors, Hollywood’s major movie studios are planning to make a big impact on potential licensees and retailers using the primary tool of their trade – the big ‘ole silver screen. After a successful trial run at last year’s event, the screening suite has returned to Brand Licensing at twice its previous size. Capacity now sits at more than 200, and feature film players have booked time to tease trailers and pitch prospective partners on upcoming film properties, aided by the cinema-sized screen in a theater-style setting. The suite allows licensors to separate screenings from meetings, giving them a better chance to put more focus on other priorities. Here’s a glimpse of what the studios will be screening during BL’s two-day run from October 2 to 3.

Indy returns from last crusade

Lucasfilm is going full-tilt to prepare for the May 22, 2008 release of the untitled fourth installment in its Indiana Jones series. It’s been almost 20 years since the cantankerous, reluctant hero graced the big screen in The Last Crusade, but Lisa Shapiro, MD of the entertainment division at The Licensing Company, says Lucas is looking to start Indy down the path forged by the Star Wars saga. ‘The franchise is there, and it’s coming from the same studio’ she says. ‘Particularly from a merch perspective, it should hit the collector market.’

While the latest film will play to those who grew up with Indy, Shapiro says it will also serve to introduce a new generation of kids to the property. The primary consumer products program in the works targets kids six to 10. TLC is looking for UK publishing, collectibles and toy partners to lead the merch charge, with soft lines licensees (including bedding and apparel) rounding out the offering that’s slated to hit mass retail in spring 2008.

Promo plans are a bit further along. Shapiro says details on a QSR initiative, a cereal deal and a national lottery promo are being firmed up.

New Line points the way

with Golden Compass

Also repped by TLC, New Line Cinema is making a big push with The Golden Compass, based on the first book in the best-selling trilogy penned by native Brit author Philip Pullman. With the intention of introducing Pullman to a mass audience, this epic film, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, centers on themes of friendship and good versus evil.

Though New Line and US partner Scholastic have already signed up more than 15 licensees, covering major categories such as publishing (Scholastic), master toy (Corgi) and video games (Sega), Shapiro says TLC is still looking for UK partners in stationery and celebration cakes. On the whole, product will target kids five and up, with publishing aiming for kids over eight. Expect the shape-shifting daemons, exotic creatures and fantastical elements of the book/film’s narrative to play key roles in all product landing on retail shelves this coming November.

Sony goes full out on food

Hot on the heels of launching Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs at Licensing Show in New York this past June, Sony is taking the show on the road to Brand Licensing. Sony Pictures Consumer Products VP of global promotions Zachary Eller calls the third Sony Pictures Animation production ‘the first animated disaster movie for kids.’ Aimed at kids six to 12, the film is based on a book by Judi Barrett that follows eccentric scientist Flint Lockwood’s travails as he sets out to solve world hunger with his latest invention. However, in wacky comic tradition, things go a little awry. His food eventually works its way into weather systems and the world is suddenly faced with tank-sized hamburgers falling from the sky and spaghetti and meatballs whirling about the atmosphere.

Lisa Storms, VP of international licensing at SPCP, says Sony is currently working on a product strategy that will incorporate the many creative ways kids have fun with food and will target the four to 10 set. Eller and Storms say they’ll be on the hunt for food partners, particularly packagers of healthful nibbles, as well as non-traditional licensees such as cleaning-supply manufacturers. (Meatball tornadoes do leave quite a mess behind, you know.) It’s early in the game on this one. The film doesn’t hit theaters until March 2009, and the licensee field is wide open.

The Hulk, superhero buddies muscle in on the market

With its first full presence at Brand Licensing, Marvel Entertainment International is set on highlighting two key film properties bowing on the big screen in 2008. Marvel Studios’ Iron Man, which tells the story of a billionaire inventor who dons a suit of armor to protect the world, will bow next May, while The Incredible Hulk is scheduled to stomp into theaters the following month. Unlike the 2003 Hulk outing, this CGI/live-action feature starring Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner, doesn’t dwell on the angry green guy’s origins, instead zeroing in on The Hulk as he goes on the lamb and tries to cure himself before getting caught.

Though most major categories are already tied up for both films, MEI president Simon Philips says opportunities still exist in local European markets, and Marvel is definitely open to entertaining pitches from new partners, particularly in electronics and home appliances aimed at all age demos.

Promo plans are still in the early stages, but as far as the look of the product goes, Philips says it will stay as faithful to the properties’ core values as possible. Several Iron Man toys, for example, will incorporate robotic and construction themes, while Hulk playthings will highlight the character’s strength and heroism. No word yet on whether or not new master toy licensee Hasbro will revamp Hulk Hands – its 2003 role-play toy hit – for the current generation of would-be Hulklings.

Fox ages down The Simpsons,

introduces Walden flicks

With no formal announcements on the third installment of the Ice Age franchise and with Space Chimps underway for next summer, Twentieth Century Fox Europe MD Carl Lumbard says plans are in the works to shift The Simpsons down to a younger audience. In a number of European territories (such as Eastern Europe and Scandinavia), the TV series has traditionally been positioned as a teen/adult show, with only the UK and Spanish markets touting its kid appeal.

Additionally, The Simpsons Movie that was released in North America this past July is being dubbed (instead of subtitled) in several Euro markets (Norway, Finland, Denmark and The Netherlands). Lumbard says this new accessibility will make The Simpsons more appealing and relevant to kids, giving Fox L&M the opportunity to license in categories for the four to 10 demo, which has gone untargeted in those territories to date.

Another of Lumbard’s priorities is to focus on the deal signed with Walden Media last June. Fox is now heading up the film producer’s worldwide licensing efforts for its post-Chronicles of Narnia portfolio. Along with Walden’s EVP of marketing Chris DeMoulin, Fox will be introducing 2008 releases City of Ember and Nim’s Island to the UK licensing crowd. Fox’s theatrical arm is distributing the titles while joint marketing venture Fox-Walden will trumpet the new films to the consumer market.

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