WB ready to unleash torrent of merchandise

Warner Bros. wants Green Lantern to make just as much green for the studio as Batman or Superman. But first it needs to make the character popular with the public.

The studio’s consumer products division plans to unleash a major merchandising effort around DC Comics’ power ring-wearing space cop next year that includes everything from T-shirts to toys.

But the fate of those products hinges on the perf of the “Green Lantern” movie, which bows June 17, 2011. It stars Ryan Reynolds and is helmed by Martin Campbell, who has experience in franchise relaunches as the helmer of “Golden Eye,” which intro’d Pierce Brosnan as 007, and “Casino Royale,” which did the same for Daniel Craig.

If “Green Lantern” clicks, it will undoubtedly be a big boon to the character’s merchandise and bottomline of Warner Bros.’ consumer products arm, which already generates $6 billion a year in sales. That’s mostly thanks to Superman and Batman.

The movie is the engine that drives sales of not only the merchandise, but also the vidgame and a new animated series, for example, that will help turn Green Lantern into a truly evergreen franchise for the company.

The studio wants Green Lantern to grab a piece of the $5.4 billion that’s generated from licensed toy sales each year, according to NPD Group. Roughly 25% of all toy sales are tied to entertainment properties.

Warner Bros. finds itself in the same situation that Marvel Entertainment did in 2008 with Iron Man.

Like Iron Man at the time, Green Lantern is considered a secondary character in the superhero pantheon who has his followers, but outside of the nerd herd, the character remains unknown among most moviegoers, and as a result, consumers.

But after the first “Iron Man” pic went on to earn $585 million worldwide, the property became a major source of licensing revenue for Marvel — even surpassing Spider-Man — and retailers were eager to pack their shelves with a large variety of products featuring the superhero this summer. It even got to the point where Walmart handed over real estate inside its stores to promote the red and gold wares.

Hasbro had a similar experience with “Transformers.” Interest in the aging toy line picked up considerably after the first film bowed in 2007. Toy sales earned a whopping $592 million from last year’s sequel, 20% more than around the first film.

Warner Bros. is looking for that same kind of effect. It’s been in this situation before: it breathed new life into the caped crusader with Tim Burton’s “Batman” in the 1980s and again with “Batman Begins” in 2005.

While Marvel didn’t have a wide variety of products ready when “Iron Man” bowed — opting to wait to see if consumers would embrace the character rather than leave retailers hanging with unsold merchandise — Green Lantern will be a different story.

Green Lantern has only a handful of licensees creating products around the character like T-shirts, some action figures or pricey collectibles for adults. A year before the film bows, WB has already inked deals with more than 100 licensees, in North America alone, who will unleash product when “Green Lantern” flies into the megaplex.

Green Lantern has also been a central character in the Justice League, which Warners is also eyeing as a future pic franchise. Next summer’s “Green Lantern” will be important in eventually getting that film off the ground.

“The Green Lantern film has an incredibly wide merchandise appeal,” said “Green Lantern” producer Donald De Line. “The potential is there for amazing toys and merchandise because Green Lantern’s ring can create anything the imagination can conjure.”

Specifically, the character will be backed by action figures, vehicles, playsets, games, puzzles from Mattel, as the exclusive toymaker, with products involving its Hot Wheels, Tyco R/C and UNO brands. Other companies will produce apparel, videogames and collectibles.

“The beauty of Green Lantern is that he is an inspirational superhero with a rich, unmatched heritage that will appeal to boys of all ages,” said Tim Kilpin, g.m. of Mattel Brands. What helps the product push is that Green Lantern doesn’t just revolve around one character but the Green Lantern Corps., made up of a large gathering of colorful characters who have all been chosen to serve in the space police force.

And that aspect will be a key factor in the types of merch that’s made. Naturally, a Green Lantern ring will also be offered in order for kids to feel as if they too, have been chosen to be a Green Lantern.

“Mattel’s Green Lantern toy program is going to introduce Green Lanterns like Hal Jordan and Kilowog to new fans everywhere,” said DC Entertainment chief creative officer and “Green Lantern” co-producer Geoff Johns. “It is going to be amazing to watch the world discover the Green Lantern mythology.”

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