Warner Independent in talks to get rights, get official toys to market

It’s hard to imagine a film with a higher Cuddle Factor than “March of the Penguins.”

Perhaps the docu’s most enduring image is that of a chick peeking out from under the belly of its parent. It’s enough to make you run right out and buy a plush toy — especially if you’re at a theater like Hollywood’s ArcLight, which has a gift shop in the lobby.

Except that there’s not a penguin to be purchased amid the Pink Panther handbags and terrycloth unicorns.

“If there were penguins, I would have bought them,” says Robert Brugeman, ArcLight retail and events manager. “All I have to offer is the soundtrack.”

Problem is, Warner Independent Pictures, which distribs the waddle-away hit of the summer, doesn’t own merchandising rights. The company did assemble a media swag bag that included a stuffed animal — but some of those were last seen commanding $40 and up on eBay.

The good news is that Warner Independent is in talks with France’s Bonne Pioche and Wild Bunch, the film’s merchandising rights holders, to get some official plush toys to market.

And there are free iron-ons available in the Kids Arcade section of the film’s Web site, marchofthepenguins.com. Penguins would seem a particularly good fit for winter holiday gift-giving. But an 800-pound gorilla lurks.

“Will we have a ton of ‘King Kong’ stuff this Christmas?” Brugeman asks rhetorically. “You bet.”

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