Star Wars, The Avengers, Batman vs. Superman and a whole host of the world’s biggest brands are hitting the big screen in 2015. While box office records look destined to be smashed, Billy Langsworthy asks if it will also translate into a year to remember for the toy industry

2015: The year of the blockbuster

The summer of 2015 is likely to be one of the biggest yet at the box office.

Star Wars Episode VII, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Man of Steel 2, a Fantastic Four reboot, Jurassic World, Avatar 2, Finding Dory, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and a whole range of other movies complete a line-up that looks destined to break records. And toy retailers should be bracing themselves, too.

A recent NPD report suggested that toys based on movie licences are especially lucrative as they experience rapid sales growth around the release of film.

At the time of writing 2015 will be bringing the likes of Star Wars Episode VII, The Avengers sequel and Man of Steel 2 (Batman vs. Superman) and Jurassic World to the big screen. And this means that plenty of related toys will be hitting shelves.

The demand for Despicable Me 2 toys and the success experienced by Monsters University shows the power that a popular children’s movie can have at the tills. And fortunately for the toy industry, in 2015 for every Terminator 5, there’s also a more child-friendly blockbuster.

While it didn’t experience the success of toy titan Cars, Pixar is releasing a sequel to Finding Nemo entitled Finding Dory alongside its new film, set inside the brain, called Inside Out.

Elsewhere, plush firms will no doubt embrace Kung Fu Panda 3, The Smurfs 3 and the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. The second Tintin film also has potential to spawn play-sets.

Superhero blockbusters like The Avengers: Age of Ultron and a Fantastic Four reboot will lend themselves to action figures, while the announcement that Man of Steel 2 will see Superman take on Batman should prick the ears of play-set designers everywhere.

Arguably the biggest movie licence to return in 2015 is the one which, in toy terms, has never gone away.

Star Wars has remained a toy titan since A New Hope changed the way the movies thought about merchandise back in 1977 and the new film will no doubt spawn a smorgasbord of ranges.

And it won’t end in 2015. With plans to release a new Star Wars film every summer from 2015, toys from a galaxy far, far away will be around for a long, long time yet.

“A strong blockbuster movie slate normally bodes well for toy sales,” industry consultant and Virtual World Licensing partner Steve Reece told ToyNews.

“While the big chunks of opportunity are likely to be with the major toy companies, there are plenty of smaller but still significant slices of the action for everyone else.”


With a lot of 2015’s blockbusters not aimed at children (Terminator 5, Independence Day 2, Bond 24, Mission Impossible 5, Die Hard 6, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2) is there a risk that toy stores will miss out?

“Some movies are too old for the toy market target, some get 12 ratings and some just don’t get any visibility in the media or in the trade,” said Frederique Tutt, global industry analyst at The NPD Group.

“Retailers and licensees will probably favour sequels as they are less of a risk and they can relate to past sales.”

With age ratings being one means of missing out, there could also be the risk that with so many major films releasing that summer, retailers will have to pick and choose what to back, leaving them wide open to losses.

On this risk, Tutt adds: “There was a year, five years ago or so when several action movies were released within two to three weeks of each other in June, July and August. The calendar was too tight for retailers to give the licence enough time on shelves and buyers had to discount some promising film products to make space for the next film product portfolio.”

However, this presents retailers with a unique opportunity, claims NPD’s UK toys director Jez Fraser-Hook.

“There is a risk of this happening in 2015 and, even worse, for some movie product to be almost absent from the shelves all together. But on the other hand, this is also an opportunity for some retailers to present themselves as a destination for a particular movie.”

And then there’s the availability of product.

There was plenty of Minion love prior to the release of Despicable Me 2, but as a feature in last month’s issue stated, retail still missed out.

Stores will be crossing their fingers and hoping that Universal isn’t taking the same approach with the release of Jurassic World, especially considering the power of dinosaurs.


With all considered, no blockbuster, however successful at the box office, is guaranteed a similar fate in aisles of a toy shop.

“Big movie licences do not necessarily equate with big turnover at retail at all for the toy industry,” adds Tutt.

“Remember Avatar? This was the biggest movie ever at the US box office yet it totally bypassed the toy trade with only a few jigsaw puzzles to be found on shelves. Possibly a huge missed opportunity if only for dress-up.”

But despite the risk of missing out, 2015’s line-up is as chock a bloc with blockbusters as any year in living memory.

Mark Buschhaus, co-owner of indie Toy Barnhaus, feels good things for the movies can only mean good things for toys.

“We’re already seeing with Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University that the pick-up from toy lines has been really strong and early signs on Planes are good. And look at Star Wars; it’s always strong regardless of a film launch. But with film launches you need to get linked in with it quickly. After it comes out, you get a window of two-three weeks of great sales,” Barnhaus says.

“We’ve sold loads of Minions to all ages.The same with Monsters University. So if the collectable factor of those films is anything to go by on what 2015 will be like, it’s going to be a good thing. The way 2015 looks, I won’t be in the shop a lot because I’ll be in the cinema.”

Reece adds: “The movie business is a hit and miss model. Some of the 2015 slate will disappoint, some will fly, but there is no shadow of a doubt that should the release dates for all these movies remain in 2015, it will be a massive year for the toy industry.”

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