Hasbro Switches Partners in Hollywood Romance


Universal's decision to end a splashy four-year movie deal with toy company Hasbro could be a boon to two of its rivals -- though early reactions are mixed.

Hasbro's announcement Jan. 30 that it will make Stretch Armstrong with Relativity met with skepticism in Hollywood because no major talent was attached and Ryan Kavanaugh's independent studio is believed to be operating with thin margins. At best, says analyst Eric Handler at MKM Partners, the picture might get made with a much smaller budget than would have been contemplated at Universal. The Jan. 31 news of a live-action version of theboard game Candy Land, starring Adam Sandler, seems more substantive and arguably makes more sense. Sony stunned the industry with The Smurfs, which grossed about $564 million worldwide last year. But analyst Sean McGowan of Needham & Co. notes that Smurfs merchandise sales did not improve dramatically thanks to the film's success. (The Smurfs are not a Hasbro property.) The Hasbro moves leave Universal only with Battleship, a May tentpole that will be the first big-budget movie based on a board game since Paramount released the disappointing Clue in 1985. Having invested what is said to be more than $200 million in Battleship (the studio says it's less), Universal's appetite for branded toy and game properties appears to have been sated. For its part, Hasbro saw its stock decline by 32 percent in 2011 and has warned that its holiday sales fell short of expectations. So Handler says the toy company might as well try to freshen up more properties with movies, especially if Hollywood is footing the bill.