Movie ticket prices are going up, while movie theater attendance is going down, and that apparent fatigue is trickling all the way down to toy sales — even with one of the biggest toy franchises in action figure history.
Bloomberg reports sales of Star Wars toys declined in 2017, riding a trend that apparently saw overall sales for tie-in toys dip across the year. What’s most significant is that toy sales were down even as Star Wars: The Last Jedi had one of the biggest openings of the year and was preceded by a massive marketing campaign. The Last Jedi opened in December, just in time for Christmas, and yet sales were down. Gerrick Johnson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets, attributed the declines to “movie fatigue” as kids and pre-teens turn their attention away from the big screen and toward Netflix, YouTube, and video games.
There’s also the fact that there are just an exorbitant number of movie tie-in toys flooding the aisles these days. The report notes that 20 major films released in 2017 had “robust” toy licensing deals for merchandising, almost double the amount from a decade ago. There are just a ton of toys out there for kids (and collectors to boot), and just as Peak TV has meant a gradual decline in ratings for most networks year-to-year, the same seems to be true for toy sales. Kids aren’t just getting Star Wars toys anymore — they’re putting Avengers, Justice League, LEGOs, Transformers, and those cool Nerf guns on their Christmas lists, too.
Looking at the broader numbers, the report notes toy sales as a whole are expected to increase by around 4.5 percent, according to market research firm NPD. Movie tie-in merchandise has been leading the charge in toy growth the past few years, with movie tie-ins accounting for 38 percent of toy revenue last year (up from 15 percent a decade earlier). Star Wars toys helped usher in the era of movie tie-ins decades ago, and accounted for a mind-boggling $700 million last year, but as more competition (from other toy lines, as well as other entertainment platforms) stack up, it seems the market is leveling off. At least for now.
Of course, with Rian Johnson prepping a whole new trilogy full of new characters and places (and ships, and planets, and weapons), you know the toy division is champing at the bit to hopefully put Star Wars back on top.