EXCLUSIVE: Analyst: 'Tron' Toys Top Holiday Season, But Film Merch Sales May Be Lackluster

8:40 PM PST 12/08/2010 by Paul Bond
"Tron: Legacy"

Warner Bros.' "Yogi Bear" won't be well-represented this Christmas, but neither film is expected to top "Shrek Forever After" at retail.

There will be lots of toys based on the movie Tron: Legacy under Christmas trees this year. Not so much for Warner Bros.’ Yogi Bear, though.

So says Panjiva, a company that tracks merchandise shipments into the U.S. by counting those huge cargo containers that move across the ocean on giant ships and noting what’s inside of them.

There were 187 containers packed with Tron gear landing at American ports from August through October, the peak months for merchandise that will sell during the Christmas shopping season, according to Panjiva CEO Josh Green.

While that’s good news for Disney, it might also signal a lackluster season for movie-related merchandise in general, because the Tron shipments significantly lag the 277 containers related to Shrek Forever After merchandise during a three-month period ahead of that May release from DreamWorks Animation.

The problem, said Green, is that “nobody is betting on a breakaway winner” this season.

Second to Tron is Megamind from DWA, which had 158 containers of merchandise shipping during the crucial three-month frame.

However, most of the Megamind stuff consisted of free promotional items as opposed to toys that people will purchase in stores. That’s not the case for Disney’s Tangled and Warner’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which are the third- and fourth-biggest movies, respectively, based on merchandise shipments.

Tangled containers numbered 85 and held mostly dolls, books and toy replicas of Rapunzel’s tower, while Potter’s count was 65, with lots of magic wands, chess sets and puzzles.

There are limitations to what Panjiva can predict using its data, of course. It can’t say, for example, what the items inside the containers are worth, and containers with larger items fill up faster than ones with smaller items.

That, in fact, could account for Tron earning the No. 1 spot, given that a lot of the goods being shipped are toy motor vehicles that are much larger than, say, action figures. But there’s a whole lot of Tron action figures in those containers as well.

Panjiva’s data also doesn’t take into account merchandise made in the U.S., though 90 percent of all toys are made outside the country, according to internal toy industry data.

The losers in the movie-merchandise game this Christmas, or the “non performers,” as Green puts it, are Yogi Bear (three containers), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (five containers) and Gulliver’s Travels (20 containers).

Panjiva has been tracking this sort of movie-based data each summer since 2007, though this is the first time it has done so for the Christmas season.

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