ICv2's second annual look at the merchandising potential of Hollywood movies comes at what could be described as both the 'worst of times' and the 'best of times' for selling tie-in goods.  On the negative side the window of opportunity for selling merchandised based on the average Hollywood blockbuster keeps shrinking and shrinking because new releases are heavily promoted and premiered on so many screens that anyone interested in seeing the film can (and usually does) attend during its opening weekend.  Add to this the fact that current plans call for Hollywood studios to release 47 major motion pictures between Memorial Day and Labor Day (versus 36 films last year) and it is apparent that each weekend will get increasingly competitive as new films launch.  Another black mark against 2002 movies is that there is no equivalent film for Ghost World and From Hell, two of last year's films that were directly based on graphic novels and which (especially in the case of Ghost World) meant more to many pop culture retailers than all the other films of 2001 put together.


On the positive side, three of the 2002 offerings are basically mega-franchises -- proven sellers with built-in audiences and major upside potential.  Spider-Man, which opens May 3, hasn't proven itself yet, but Sony/Columbia is so happy with what they have accomplished with the first Spider-Man film that they have already locked up all the key talent for a sequel.  Star Wars Episode II is the latest chapter of the single most influential science fiction/fantasy saga of our era -- and it should benefit from Lucasfilm's considerable restraint in promotion and merchandising (see 'Spider-Man Vs. Episode II').  Rounding out an exceptional year for these cinematic merchandising machines is The Two Towers, the second episode in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (the first film has earned over $800 million worldwide since it opened in December).  One of the key factors behind each of these films is the fact that they will not be the last of their kind -- they are true franchise films -- another installment of each is already on the way -- and the increasing use of TV ads to sell DVD and video releases can also help retailers move any merchandise that didn't sell during the film's theatrical release.  Of course the biggest benefit of films like these three is intangible, it's the number of kids who will become interested in comics, in science fiction, in fantasy -- the kids who will be the customers of the future in pop culture stores for decades to come.


Blade II 

Blade II opened last week and confounded the experts by more than doubling the opening of the first Blade film (see 'Blade II Too Much For Competition').  Though not on a par with Spider-Man, Blade is a 'franchise' in its own right (see 'Blade III Set Before Blade II Hits the Screen').  Marvel has several movie adaptations as well as a new Blade series in its mature readers MAX line.  And don't forget about reproductions of movie posters; the Blade II Advance poster is a great design.  Paper goods, whether it's a question of comics, novelizations, posters, trading cards, or souvenir magazines are quite often the best-selling movie tie-in items.


The Scorpion King

The Scorpion King, which stars WWF's The Rock, is a spin-off of Universal's popular Mummy films.  Inkworks has Scorpion King trading cards (see 'Inkworks Thinks Small Screen') and Jaxx Pacific has action figures.  Opening on April 19, The Scorpion King will be the first big summer action film to bow -- and retailers who have a solid base of WWF fans among their clientele should take advantage of this opportunity.



Spider-Man opens May 3 and should set the tone for what many predict will be the biggest summer in Hollywood history.  Marvel has a plethora of Spidey titles available (see 'Marvel Talks Spider-Man Movie Tie-ins') and the film's opening ties in perfectly with Free Comic Book Day.  Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man was the top comic ordered by retailers for the Free Comic Day Promotion, which indicates that the retail community understands how to make the most of this opportunity.  Toy Biz (see 'Toy Biz Figures Continue to Improve') has an extensive line of Spider-Man movie figures, but don't forget the Topps Spider-Man Movie trading cards or the opportunities presented by the many cool Spider-Man movie posters and tie-in books.


Opens May 16

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The latest Star Wars film opens on May 16, and the few people who have seen the film and will talk about it (notably 'Harry' the uber-troll from the Ain't It Cool Website) are ecstatic over it.  Episode I was over-hyped and over-merchandised and Lucasfilm has reacted by cutting back the number of licensed products and the amount of advance hype the film will receive, but there is still a lot of great product for pop culture retailers to sell starting with comic adaptations from Dark Horse, trading cards from Topps, and toys from Hasbro (see 'Licensing is Back At Hasbro'), as well as an RPG and a new CCG from WOTC (see 'Wizards of the Coast Gets Star Wars CCG'), and lots of great posters and tie-in books.



The live action Scooby-Doo film bows on June 14.  Although live action remakes of campy cartoon classics have traditionally not fared all that well with the critics or at the box office (e.g.The Flintstones), an awful lot of people have fond memories of the Scooby gang -- and the presence of Sarah Michelle Gellar (aka Buffy) is sure to help this film.  But also remember that Scooby-Doo is an on-going property thanks to constant reruns on cable networks -- and a new version of the cartoon series is slated for broadcast TV in the fall (see 'New Scooby Doo Animated Series For the WB').  Inkworks has cards (see 'Inkworks Thinks Small Screen') and Equity Marketing has toys from both the film and the classic cartoon series (see 'Austin Powers, Animal House, Scooby-Do & More).


Lilo & Stitch 

Lilo & Stitch is Disney's entry in the summer animation derby.  Even though Stitch is a cute alien character, this film may skew too young for the clientele of most pop culture stores.  Hasbro's toy line for the film is limited to age-appropriate plush items.


Men In Black II

The sequel to the immensely popular, comic book-based Men in Black film debuts on July 3.  Although the premise of this film has been ripped off time and again recently (see the Alien/Evolution cartoon series), the chemistry of the two leading actors, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones may allow the film to escape the mind-numbing perils of sequelhood.  Inkworks has a series of trading cards, while Hasbro has a limited MIB II toy line (see 'Licensing is Back At Hasbro').


Powerpuff Girls 

The Powerpuff Girls animated film from Warner Brothers also opens on July 3.  Movie critics who aren't familiar with this surprisingly fun and witty cartoon series may provide strong notices, and the Powerpuff Girls could be the surprise animated hit of the summer.  You heard it here first.


The Road To Perdition

The Road To Perdition, which opens on July 12, is the one major film of the summer that is based on a graphic novel (by Max Allen Collins), and which might provide pop culture retailers with book sales in the same manner that Ghost World and From Hell did in 2001.  Unfortunately, Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has disparaged the film's source in interviews, which may mean that he has made major changes.  On the plus side, this film stars Tom Hanks, which means it will get plenty of coverage in spite of the fact that a mind-blowing total of six films are currently scheduled for wide release debuts on July 12.


Austin Powers III

No longer known as Austin Powers: Goldmember, this film should still be able to generate some heat when it bows on July 26 -- thanks to Mike Myers and New Line's careful cultivation of this Bond-spoofing farce.  The Austin Powers franchise has already demonstrated its ability to move merchandise -- and toys, posters will be available (see 'Austin Powers, Animal House, Scooby-Do & More').


Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets

Although the first Harry Potter film was not a critical favorite like Lord of the Rings, the movie did enormous box office and Mattel's Harry Potter toys were plenty hot during last year's holiday season.  The second Harry Potter film debuts on November 15, and there is no reason to think that the film won't do extremely well at the box office.  Mattel has more cool Harry Potter toys (see 'Mattel Plays It Close To the Vest'), while WOTC has both trading cards and expansions for its Harry Potter CCG (see 'WOTC To Launch Transformers CCG').


Bond 20: Die Another Day

The twentieth James Bond film opens November 22.  Although a recent attempt by ABC TV to revive the Bond films for Saturday night TV was a dismal failure, this franchise still has many admirers, even in its dotage.


Star Trek: Nemesis

Speaking of getting a little 'long in the tooth,' Star Trek is definitely showing its age, though this Next Generation film could invigorate the franchise if it manages to attain the level of The Wrath of Khan.  Otherwise we will have to wait until the Enterprise series manages to define itself.  The main problem for Star Trek: Nemesis could be that it is currently scheduled to bow on December 20, the same day that Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers opens, which will make it difficult for the Star Trek film to make much of a splash.


Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Excitement is already building for the sequel to the Oscar-winning LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring.  This could be as close to a 'can't miss' blockbuster as it gets -- and there is plenty of great merchandise available including two levels of toy product (ToyBiz's low-end, mass market offerings see 'Toy Biz Figures Continue To Improve' and Sideshow's more expensive, collector-oriented figures (see 'Sideshow Expands High End Offerings'), plus books, posters, and the popular LOTR CCG from Decipher (see 'LOTR Starter Decks Sell Out').  Last year pop culture retailers missed a major opportunity with the LOTR trading cards from Topps, that were vastly underordered and which sold out in a flash.  Like Star Wars (and hopefully Spider-Man), the Lord of the Rings is several cuts above 2002's other cinema 'franchises.'