Movies With the Most Merchandising and Licensing Deals Image

Movies With the Most Merchandising and Licensing Deals

By Film Threat Staff | May 16, 2023

Movie production budgets have exploded in recent years. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens costing a whopping $447 million, blockbuster movies need to make a significant return at the box office to keep the production studios in the black.

However, sometimes, this doesn’t work. Movies like Mars Needs Moms, which cost $150 million to make but only made $38 million at the box office, rely on other forms of income to make a profit— or just break even.

One of the most proven alternatives to finance a movie or franchise is through merchandising and licensing. Selling collectibles and even everyday items branded with a specific film or franchise can collect millions (if not billions) in revenue for studios.

In fact, some brands make more money through merchandising and licensing deals than box office, streaming, and DVD/Blu-Ray sales combined. Let’s look at some movies and how they’ve struck gold using these alternatives.

Star Wars

One of the most iconic movie franchises is George Lucas’ brainchild Star Wars. Since the first movie’s release in 1977, Star Wars has grown to a franchise of over ten films and TV shows.

While some movies had incredibly high budgets, like The Force Awakens mentioned above, the brand had no problem regaining these costs at the box office. Collectively, the brand has grossed around $10.3 billion from fans rushing to view the latest blockbuster.

Despite generating such a massive income, the box office revenue for the franchise is just a drop in the ocean compared to its actual value. From lunch boxes to night lights in the shape of stormtrooper helmets, there is no published number of just how many licensing deals the franchise has made. It does, however, have a mind-boggling amount of merchandise.

The licensing income from all these odds and ends has generated approximately $42.2 billion for the brand—more than four times the amount made at the box office. This number continues to rise as fans worldwide continue to buy the latest branded merchandise daily.

Harry Potter

As one of the most recognizable movie franchises, Harry Potter has expanded beyond the original books with multiple spin-offs, a new TV series announced by HBO Max, and even a dedicated merchandising brand called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Based on J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series of books, the initial movies generated incredible revenues—around $7.73 billion, to be exact. The films were so well known that the final movie in the series had advertising billboards that didn’t even need the movie’s name to be recognized.

Like Star Wars, the money the movies made, however, can easily be considered small change. With over 400 known license deals for merchandise, fans can purchase everything from wands to branded pencils and even tailored robes.

Together, this astonishing array of items has generated an additional $26 billion in revenue. Much of this is attributed to the many items sold at dedicated theme parks built using the brand, such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Infinity Saga

No list of movie merchandising would be complete without mentioning the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first edition of the MCU, The Infinity Saga, comprises 32 movies beginning with Iron Man and ending with Spider-Man: Far From Home.

All in all, the collection’s budget racked up a total of over $4.75 billion. While that is a jaw-dropping sum of money, what’s even more incredible is they generated an estimated $26 billion return.

Exactly how many licensing deals the brand has made in merchandising is uncertain. However, considering Marvel Entertainment holds over 5,850 active trademarks and just about anything can be found with the brand and characters from the movies—from $85 Marvel toilet paper to a Ghost Rider slot game reviewed on—it is safe to say it is in the hundreds or even thousands.

All these licensing and merchandising deals have paid off, with the brand recording estimates of $41 billion in merchandise revenue by 2020 alone. A staggering $23.28 million is generated yearly on comic book sales alone.

Toy Story

While the revenue generated by the culmination of all Disney Pixar movies together would put the movie franchises above to shame, Toy Story stands out on its own. The movie was the first-ever collaboration between the two iconic studios and started a long-lasting relationship responsible for over 26 films so far.

As the first-ever feature-length CGI (computer-generated imagery) movie, Toy Story and its sequels had a total budget of around $720 million. Box office income alone generated over $3.3 billion—more than enough to cover production costs.

Being the first CGI movie (and a hit with children), the franchise quickly moved into licensing merchandise for fans to take home. With brands like Mattel gaining licensing, Toy Story branding can be found on everything from lunch boxes and juice bottles to the collectible figurines of the movie’s characters.

Disney has been silent on how much this merchandise has raked in recently. However, considering sales had generated over $9 billion before the release of Toy Story 3 or Toy Story 4, this number is likely much higher.

Honorable Mentions

The above movies have broken records and effectively printed money using their merchandise. There are more, however, that have done very well in this department.

  • Jurassic Park: Over $1 billion by 1994 (excludes all Jurassic World merchandise).
  • Transformers: Estimated at over $9 billion.
  • Despicable Me/Minions: Over $10 billion collectively (around $4 billion for Despicable Me and approximately $6 billion for the Minions brand)
  • Cars: Over $10 billion was generated from the first film alone.

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