A Dragon With Your Coke? Why Movie-Themed Toys Are Selling at the Multiplex

Transformers 4 Cup - P 2014
Courtesy of Genncomm/Snap Creative

Transformers 4 Cup - P 2014

Theaters are engaging more and more in the business of "Speedpack Combos"

This story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Movie theaters make most of their profits on concessions, and this summer that revenue is getting supersized thanks to the growing business of "Speedpack Combos" — a plastic drink cup, figurine and popcorn bag themed to a movie.

Bill Howard, CEO of manufacturer SnapCo, says themed packaging can increase sales by more than 15 percent, no small change as box office struggles. The Happy Meal-style sets cost theaters about $1.50 and retail for as much as $7.95.

"The kid sees another kid with this toy and says, 'Hey, I want that, too,' " says Howard.

SnapCo has licensing deals with nearly all the studios, which collect a royalty on each sale (rates are minimal because of the marketing benefit).

"Acceptance has been overwhelming," says Jim McGinness of distributor RCM Media, which has set up deals with such theater chains as Cinemark and Cineplex. However, U.S. exhibitor giants Regal and AMC aren't participating yet.

The top seller this year has been How to Train Your Dragon 2, which moved 1.2 million units worldwide, says Howard, including 75,000 in China, where it was tried for the first time this summer.

Says Cineplex food service manager Kristen Sheridan: "We didn't think we would see 35-year-old guys with collectible cups with little toys on them, but they love them."