Revitalizing Franchises: Sony Pictures Consumer Products Licensing Strategy

New Ghostbusters

Although Economos says the original movies continue to be extremely popular, the announced remake for 2016 will reinvigorate the franchise and create all-new licensing opportunities. In addition to being the long-awaited new entry in one of Sony’s most-beloved franchises, the new “Ghostbusters” already has generated a lot of attention for its main cast, which consists of Melissa McCarthy and “Saturday Night Live” veterans Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.

“We think those female characters will appeal to everyone,” Economos says. “They’re iconic characters that are being created with the same comedy that the original movie had. These women are the most comedic of our time today – they do have that kind of same style as the characters did from 30 years ago.”

Waisman says the new female Ghostbusters will not only draw in a new generation of fans to the franchise, but they will allow Sony Pictures Consumer Products to explore new licensing categories that the Ghostbusters franchise has not been in before. This is especially true for master toy licensee Mattel, which will continue to produce toys based on the original movies.

Economos says Sony Pictures is excited by the potential for a new “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it has created Ghost Corp. as a separate division to oversee the management of the franchise. He says the studio believes the cross-cultural appeal of “Ghostbusters” can elevate the new movie into the start of an interconnected universe of films and TV series.

New Properties

In addition to Ghostbusters, Sony Pictures Consumer Products is focusing its efforts on an exciting array of classic characters like the Smurfs and Hotel Transylvania as well as newer and popular properties such as the upcoming Pixels.  “We have a little bit for everybody,” says Executive Director of Retail Development Vivianne Waisman.

In July, Sony Pictures releases “Pixels,” starring Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, and Kevin James. The action-comedy concerns an alien invasion of Earth that takes the form of classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. “What I call it is it’s almost a ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ combined with ‘Ghostbusters,’” Economos says.

Sony Pictures Consumer Products has a select line of merchandise based on the classic arcade games’ characters and other new characters from the film, and Economos is partnering with a video game retailer and casual dining and arcade restaurant to create activation points for the film’s release. Economos says the combination of comedy, action and classic video games should create a lot of interest from key demographics. “I think this new film will be a teen boy’s and classic gamers’ dream,” he says.

Sandler also figures heavily into Sony Pictures’ next major family/animated friendly release, “Hotel Transylvania 2,” in which he is the voice of Dracula. Economos says the sequel builds off the success of the original film by bringing back the original characters as well as introducing new members like Dracula’s grandson, dad and other members of his extended family.

With the help of an impressive group of world-class licensees, the studio has focused its licensing for “Hotel Transylvania 2” around the fact that the movie releases around Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year. The campaign has been built mainly around apparel and costumes, but it will also include impulse toys, plush, publishing and food.  A major QSR has joined Sony Pictures once again on the promotional side with an impressive program that will for sure capture kids’ attention.

New Scares

Another classic property being revived by Sony Pictures in 2015 is “Goosebumps,” the popular series of  bone-chilling novels from author R.L. Stine. The “Goosebumps” movie starring Jack Black comes out later in the year, and Economos says it offers a unique look at the franchise because Black plays Stine confronted with many of the most famous monsters from the series coming to life.

The “Goosebumps” series has sold more than 400 million books worldwide, and Sony Pictures is teaming with Scholastic to market the film and leverage all of Scholastic’s power to create a strong presence, including book fairs and reading programs.

New Opportunities

Economos says Sony Pictures is always looking for new licensing opportunities to increase the connection between fans and their favorite characters. The company is working with numerous partners on more theme parks and location-based entertainment, such as its upcoming theme park in Dubai and a new Ghostbusters attraction at Six Flags in Mexico City.

The studio also has teamed with more app developers to create games and apps for properties like the Smurfs, which will be revived in 2017 with a new completely CGI-animated feature that will be closer to the original comic books. “The biggest category that has expanded over the last five years is digital and interactive space,” Economos says.

Economos says Sony Pictures is using interactive apps to help create a multichannel experience for consumers. “They want to be able to find stuff on their phones while watching shows,”  he says. “That’s really become the zero moment of truth; it’s not when you go to the store.”