Hollywood pressed pause on releasing most major films in theaters to combat the coronavirus outbreak, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case for toys and merchandise related to those movies.
Despite film delays, toy production and gaming companies are often staying on schedule, releasing a variety of products tied to major titles from “Black Widow” to “Minions: The Rise of Gru” in hopes of weathering through the pandemic. Most products are already in retail stores, appearing on shelves and being sold online several months to a year ahead of the film’s new release date.
Some believe toy makers made the right choice to sell products now rather than later. Especially since many of the products have already been manufactured and packaged for sale .
“The train had already started moving on these toys and there was no way to stop it,” said James Zahn, senior editor at The Toy Insider. He doesn’t expect those products to sell as quickly when there’s no movie to support them, but he believes putting them on sale now is possibly the best option instead of being stored away in a warehouse, which he thinks is the worst-case scenario.
Zahn said quickly selling the toys and merchandise on clearance could be another option.
“It can become very costly,” he said. “You’re basically paying rent, monthly rent to a warehouse. You need to turn that product quickly. Everything is on schedule. Now, that schedule is out of sync. It’s not just toys. It’s a full marketing program that has multiple moving pieces between different licensing partnerships.”
Cinemas across the U.S. have been closed since mid-March with many film releases postponed for a later date. Some states are looking to soon reopen theaters.
With most movie theaters closed, studios opted to funnel their new or recently released films on home viewing platforms. That happened with Pixar’s “Onward,” which played in theaters for weeks before it was forced onto a digital platform, making more sense for toy companies to continue to release their product to coincide with the animated film.
Marvel’s “Black Widow” has been postponed until November, but products related to the film including toys and books along with characters from the film highlighted on a free-to-play mobile game. A collection of dolls are at retail stores for the live-action remake of the animated classic “Mulan,” which was delayed until July 24.
Mattel said products for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which had an original July release, will begin rolling out this summer and continue to launch throughout the fall leading up to the new release date on Dec. 23.