The Topps Company has trading cards for three of the top movie projects for 2002, Spider-Man, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (see 'Best in Shows II').  Over the past few years Topps has perfected the shipping of its movie-based trading cards, which regularly arrive at retail two weeks ahead of the movie opening.  Those two weeks before a major film debuts are typically the best time for selling trading cards, which essentially provide a preview of the film for fans who are at this point totally amped-up by the huge barrage of publicity generated to fuel the film's opening.  In the case of Topps' Spider-Man movie cards retailers should receive their shipments on April 17, while the film opens on May 3.  For Star Wars Episode II the cards should arrive on April 24, a full three weeks before the film opens on May 16.  The key problem for retailers is order enough product to be able to keep cards in stock through the first week of the film's release


Although the window of opportunity for selling movie merchandise continues to shrink, the increasingly important DVD release of a film can serve as a second chance to move merchandise, especially since the movie studios are now almost uniformly planning a video release within 6-8 months of a film's theatrical release and using heavy TV ad campaigns to flog the lucrative DVDs, which can often earn a studio far more than the theatrical showings where revenue must be shared with theater owners.  This year for example, both Spider-Man and Star Wars Episode II will be out on DVD for the holiday season, while the first episode of Lord of the Rings, which opened last December, will have video releases in both August and (Director's Cut) November (see 'New Line Announces 4 LOTR DVDs'). But even more important than the DVD release is the fact that all three of these films are 'franchises.'  A sequel for the Spider-Man movie is signed, sealed and delivered with all the principal talent both in front of and behind the camera set to return, and LOTR will be back in theaters for two more episodes (that have already been shot), while Episode III of Star Wars is about as close to a sure thing as you can get. 



The key phrase to characterize Topps' Spider-Man movie cards is the same one that could be used to describe the movie itself -- action-packed.  The buzz on the Spider-Man film is extremely strong and anyone who has seen the latest trailer that Sony posted on its website ( ) can testify to the amazing action sequences.   Topps Spider-Man movie cards are reasonably priced ($1.99 for a 7-card pack, 24 packs per box) and also feature some great inserts including Spidey hologram cards, web-shooter clear plastic cards, Spider-Sense glow stickers, and web-tech foil cards.


In addition to the Spider-Man movie cards, Topps is also planning the fall release of another Spider-Man card series aimed directly at collectors.  This will benefit from all the hoopla surrounding the Spider-Man DVD release and provide the core audience of Spider-Man fans with additional product from one of the webcrawler's banner years.


Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The buzz on this film is very strong and the latest trailer is a real knockout.  The word is that Episode II hearkens back to slam-bang action and massive scope of The Empire Strikes Back.  Topps is producing a 100-card series of cards include silver foil stamping, deluxe coating and extra thick card stock, but more importantly Topps, the only company that has ever done Star Wars trading cards, knows the property intimately so they have managed to include all the new additions to the Star Wars mythos -- the characters, the vehicles, the creatures -- all the stuff that collectors want.  And, as was the case with the Spider-Man cards, the 7-card Episode II packs are very reasonably priced at just $1.99 retail.


Episode II Cards

Another key factor that retailers should not overlook is the video release of Episode II, which will definitely be out for the holidays.  This is in stark contrast to the way Lucasfilm has handled video releases in the past and it should definitely help retailers.  Another element that should work in retailers' favor is the restraint shown by Lucasfilm, which cut back the number of licensed products for Episode II  by more than 33% as well as on the unnecessary pre-release hype that hurt sales of merchandise tied to Episode I (see 'Spider-Man vs. Episode II').

Lord of the Rings

Independent pop culture retailers missed the boat on the first Lord of the Rings film, when they woefully under-ordered the Topps LOTR cards, which sold out in a flash as The Fellowship of the Ring quickly became one of the most popular films of the past decade (see 'This Generation's Star Wars?').  Topps will of course have a series of cards for the second film in the LOTR series, The Two Towers, when it opens in December, but retailers won't have to wait that long to get back some of what they left on the table last December because Topps is coming out with a second card series based on The Fellowship of the Ring in August.  This series of all-new images from the film includes some of the characters and creatures that didn't make it into the first series including the Balrog, Nazgul, Sauron, the Cave Troll and many other goodies.  Even better, the Collector's Update Edition will also include a nine-card preview of The Two Towers.



The release of the 72-card Fellowship of the Ring Collector's Update Edition is timed to coincide with the release of the film on DVD in August.  The back of each card will feature behind-the-scenes and production art, and special memorabilia cards that include a swatch of cloth from an actual costume used in the film will be inserted at a rate of one memorabilia card per box.