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‘Dark Knight’ rises with merchandising

Early toy sales 10% ahead of prior pic

If toy sales are any indication, Warner Bros. has nothing to worry about the retail strength of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Merchandise sales for Christopher Nolan’s third Bat-pic are up 10% vs. 2008’s “The Dark Knight” at the same point in their respective rollouts.

The figure is notable given that retailers had products to sell for the second installment three weeks longer than they do for “Rises,” which bows Friday.

And the sales are even more impressive when considering this summer is proving highly competitive for studio consumer products divisions with “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” also ringing up strong sales for retailers.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products locked down 300 licensees around the world to make more than 1,000 products specifically tied to “The Dark Knight Rises.” Those include everything from action figures by Mattel, Jakks Pacific and Lego playsets to Converse shoes and T-shirts and hats by Junkfood and New Ear. Hallmark, Kinetix, Rubie’s Costume and Titan Books are also among the licensees worldwide, making toys and games, collectibles, costumes, apparel and accessories, books, cards, ornaments, party goods and domestic decor.

There’s also a women’s clutch, inspired by Catwoman, from Braccialini, and a “Caped Cru-Tater” figure from PPW Toys’ DC Super Heroes line of Mr. Potato Heads. McFarlane Toys even created an action figure of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion, Hines Ward, in his fictional Gotham Rogues football uniform as worn in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Legendary Entertainment topper Thomas Tull, who co-financed and co-produced “Rises,” is a part owner of the Steelers.

After two films, partners were looking for ways to keep consumers interested in the Batman film franchise so they’d want to keep buying products tied to the pics.

“Mattel is keeping the line fresh by introducing new movie characters while bringing forth unique play innovations that support the storyline,” said Doug Wadleigh, senior VP, global brands marketing, Mattel. That includes launching QuickTek, developed specially for “The Dark Knight Rises” line, that enables boys to instantaneously transform Batman and his vehicles into different fighting modes.

Warner Bros. said the characters, gadgets and vehicles created by Christopher Nolan for his Bat-trilogy enabled the studio to approach a wide variety of companies for products.

“The great stories, characters, gadgets and vehicles that Chris Nolan has infused into all of the Batman films goes a long way to helping us keep the product line fresh for consumers of all ages,” said Brad Globe, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “And you must have innovative licensees to take advantage of it all — whether it’s keeping the apparel trend right or making sure the toy line creates an entirely new play pattern.”

Other partners include Cardinals Industries, Funko and Mezco plush and vinyl figures, Hornby Hobbies, Thinkway Toys, clothing from Kids Republic, Bioworld, Under Armour, French Connection and Diesel, HotToys, collectibles from Kotobukiya, Mobius Models and Noble Collection, Mimoco flashdrives, and books from Titan, HarperCollins and Insight Editions, which has a “Batmobile: The Complete History” coffee-table book about the iconic Batmobile through the years of the films and TV show.

“We’re incredibly proud of the merchandise line we’ve put together for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and, judging by the number of calls we’re getting from inside and outside the studio for products, I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a hit on our hands,” Globe said.

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