- The Barbie movie is shaping up to be one of the biggest box office winners for 2023
- Mattel, owner of the Barbie IP, is looking to capitalize on it and has up to 45 more movies in development based on toys like Polly Pocket and Hot Wheels
- It’s the latest in the trend of IP led entertainment business, following Disney’s numerous acquisitions of properties like Marvel and Star Wars
The Barbie movie is set to be released in around two weeks time, and it’s fair to say that the hype is real. From the leaked images of stars Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie many months ago, to the viral AI generated Barbie dream house for every state, it’s looking like Barbie could turn around the poor start to the summer box office.
Barbie is the biggest toy movie since Transformers, and it’s following what is becoming a well trodden path of taking beloved IP and transforming it into a fully fledged entertainment franchise.
And for Mattel, the company who owns Barbie and hundreds of other well known toy brands, it’s just the beginning. For investors, it could mean getting in at the beginning of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe, or it could be a money pit that never gets off the ground. Let’s look at the details.
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Mattel plans more toy movies off back of Barbie hype
Even though Barbie hasn’t even been released yet, the hype alone has meant that Mattel is already making plans for a ‘Mattel Universe’ style assault on the entertainment landscape. According to a New Yorker report, the company has 45 films already in development based on their huge catalog of toy brands.
And honestly, they’re not messing around, and a large number of these films have already been announced with some major names attached. Some of those include:
To be written and directed by ‘Girls’ star Lena Dunham and starring Lily Collins, it’s another doll movie which will take many viewers back to their childhoods.
Probably not the most obvious movie IP, but there is supposedly already a script for the film which will be a heist movie based around the Atlanta rap scene. Yes, really. Lil’ Yachty is reportedly in line for a starring role.
This one makes a bit more sense, but it may not be what we’re all expecting. Star of Black Panther and Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya, is set to produce the movie and has said that it will be ‘surrealistic.’
Major Matt Mason
Ok, have you heard of this one? Apparently Major Mason is an astronaut action figure that was big in the 1960s. We’d be skeptical, but Tom Hanks is playing the leading role so we aren’t going to write it off.
Magic 8 Ball
Another ‘character’ that doesn’t seem super obvious for a film script, but Mattel has apparently been interested in a Magic 8 Ball movie for over 20 years. It looks like it’s finally happening, with the writer of Cocaine Bear, Jimmy Warden, working on a horror-comedy script.
Masters of the Universe
Here we go, this one ticks all the boxes. The He-Man and She-Ra series looks set to take the Marvel Cinematic Universe head on, with Mattel and Netflix putting together the new live-action film.
J.J. Abrams is reported to be working on a film based on the famous car toys. Warner Brothers and Mattel are teaming up on the picture, and Abram’s has said that it will be “emotional and grounded and gritty.”
Ok, this one isn’t based on their IP, but Mattel is also working on a Christmas movie for their new lineup. Holiday films are big business, but it’s not going to have the same nostalgic pull of the rest of their projects.
Thomas The Tank Engine
Parents of young children will know that there’s no shortage of Thomas reboots, but this is going to take it to another level as a hybrid animation and live action movie. It will be directed by James Bond Marc Forster.
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
Vin Diesel is set to star and produce this live-action take on the beloved toy. It’s unlikely to be a subtle one, with the script being written by Ryan Eagle, who’s biggest film to date is ‘Rampage’ which saw Dwayne Johnson team up with a giant mutated gorilla to stop the destruction of Chicago.
What does the IP gold rush mean for investors?
But this isn’t just a feel-good hit of nostalgia for those who grew up playing with these toys. This is another example of the value behind IP that is driving company revenues and stock prices.
It continues to cement the value of major entertainment properties, justifying the eye watering prices companies like Disney are willing to pay to gain access to the IP. Over the years Disney has bought Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars) and continues to produce multiple movies, series and attractions based on the characters and stories.
At a lesser level, Amazon has made similar moves with the purchase of MGM (James Bond, Legally Blond, Fame), as has Netflix with their acquisition of the Roald Dahl Story Company.
For these companies, IP provides an existing audience for any content produced, which theoretically reduces the downside risk of a major flop while also providing significant upside for their successes.
For investors it’s worth watching, because companies that are able to pull off the strategy create (almost) a license to print money. So far Disney is leading the way in this, with four of the top ten highest grossing movies of all time coming from these recently acquired franchises.
But it’s important to keep in mind that this is only one source of revenue for a company like Disney, with their stock price broadly flat at +0.92% year to date, and down -6.55% over the last 12 months.
Not only that, but popular IP doesn’t always translate into guaranteed sales, even with big stars attached. The Warner Bros. owned DC Universe is one such example, with films like Black Adam, Aquaman and most recently, The Flash, failing to see success.
The bottom line
Content and IP is having a real gold rush moment right now. From the early days of streaming on Netflix, we now have dozens of different streaming services to choose from and new content needed for all of them.
A big part of the strategy for filling these content libraries and winning at the box office has been to take tried and true, beloved characters and worlds and bring them back to life. It’s been a mixed bag of success so far, the hits can be huge.
For investors, the battle for IP will continue to create both winners and losers, and Mattel is the latest company to step into the ring.
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