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‘Star Wars’ Movies Push Overall Licensed Merchandise Sales to $262 Billion

With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” providing major boosts, global retail sales of licensed merchandise rose 4.4% to $262.9 billion last year, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Assn.

The association issued the report Monday, a day ahead of the launch of the three-day Licensing Expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The report did not break out any specific contribution from Disney’s first two “Star Wars” movies, but Marty Brochstein, senior VP of industry relations and information for LIMA, said that the tie-ins from the tentpoles movie played a crucial role in boosting the overall numbers.

“You had the first full year of  ‘The Force Awakens,’ which Disney presented with an appealing combination of new and classic items,” Brochstein told Variety. “The ‘Rogue One’ merchandise appealed to a slightly older demographic and did very well.”

Disney made a major push to launch “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” merchandise in September, 2015, with a “Force Friday” promotional event — three months before the movie opened — with an 18-hour online marathon with YouTube stars opening the toys online.

“The Force Awakens,” the first “Star Wars” movie in a decade, became the third-largest worldwide grosser with $2.07 billion in box office. “Rogue One,” which starred Felicity Jones, is the 22nd highest worldwide grosser with $1.056 billion.

“Finding Dory,” another Disney franchise title, was also a major contributor to the 2016 numbers, according to Brochstein. “Dory,” which launched 13 years after the original “Finding Nemo,” grossed $1.029 billion at the box office worldwide.

Brochstein also pointed to a pair of non-Disney titles as solid performers in tie-in merchandise: Warner Bros.’ “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” with $873 million in worldwide box office; and Fox/DreamWorks’ “Trolls” with $344 million in global ticket receipts.

“Batman v Superman,” was viewed as minor disappointment for the studio for not hitting the $1 billion mark but Brochstein said that retail sales of tie-in merchandise were solid. “Both characters have a long history with consumers so the movie merchandise is a natural at retail,” he added.

“Trolls,” based on the Danish Dam merchandise line, will have a sequel in 2020. “Every year, there are nice surprises on relatively unknown properties like ‘Trolls,’ such as what we saw with ‘Frozen’ in 2013,” he added.

The association also reported Monday that entertainment and character licensing remains the largest industry category, accounting for $118.3 billion, or 45% of the total global licensing market in 2016. Corporate and brand trademarks generated $54.6 billion, followed by fashion with $31.1 billion and sports at $25.3 billion.

“The 2017 survey reinforces the positive momentum of licensed products worldwide and across all categories, especially the large and growing entertainment/character sector,” said LIMA President Charles Riotto. “This year’s results also speak to the impressive reach and strength of licensing initiatives in growth markets around the world, contributing to the continued vitality of the industry.”

Brochstein said online purchases of movie merchandise have become a key factor in the industry’s economic vitality. “People want to own piece of what just saw and online makes merchandise more accessible with greater visibility,” he added.

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