Disney unveils impressive film slate; DieHard looks for more brand power; Disney reports modest 2Q; XFL signs critical broadcast deals; Amazon Go opens first unit in NYC; plus, other top brand, licensing and retail news.

Licensing, marketing and retail expert/opinion leader Tony Lisanti provides insight and perspective for the top headlines of the week. “Licensing and Merchandising Report” is a must read for top execs who want objective, straightforward and authoritative analysis for the retailers, licensors and brands.

Disney Releases Impressive Film Slate

As Avengers: Endgame continues to shatter sales records, The Walt Disney Studios has released an updated film slate that indicates the company will continue its dominance not only at the box office, but also at retail, with 33 films scheduled over the next 18 months. The impressive list of franchise releases will continue in the second-half of 2019 and will establish a Holiday blockbuster lineup through 2020.

Based on the merchandise collections that have already been announced and hit retail, Disney’s licensing efforts will continue to be broad, deep and heavily marketed direct to consumers. The competitive efforts among studios and retailers will reach a new level of intensity and in the end as is often the case the consumer will benefit.

Disney’s releases (including Fox) for the second half of 2019 include: Aladdin, May 24; Dark Phoenix, June 7; Toy Story 4, June 21; Stuber, July 12 and The Lion King, July 19; The Art of Racing in the Rain, August 9; Ready or Not, August 23; Ad Astra, September 20; The Woman in the Window, October 4; Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, October 18; Ford V. Ferrari, November 15; Frozen 2, November 22; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, December 20; and Spies in Disguise, December 25.

The 2020 lineup includes 19 films: Underwater, January 10; Untitled Kingsman Movie, February 14; Call Of The Wild, February 20; Onward, March 6; Mulan, March 27; The New Mutants, April 3; Untitled Marvel, May 1; Artemis Fowl, May 29; Untitled Pixar Animation, June 19; Free Guy, July 3; Bob’s Burgers, July 17; Jungle Cruise, July 24; The One And Only Ivan, August 14; Death On The Nile, October 9; Untitled Marvel, November 6; Ron’s Gone Wrong, November 6; Untitled Disney Animation, November 25; West Side Story, December 18; and Cruella, December 23.

The updated calendar also sets release dates for Avatar and Star Wars that includes three new as-yet-untitled Star Wars films that will release on the pre-Christmas weekend every other year beginning in 2022 and four Avatar films that will release on the pre-Christmas weekend every other year beginning in 2021.

“We’re excited to put in place a robust and diverse slate that lays the foundation of our long-term strategy, bringing together a breadth of films from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Fox, Fox Searchlight and Blue Sky Studios to create an extraordinary collection of cinematic experiences for audiences around the world,” said Cathleen Taff, president, Theatrical Distribution, Franchise Management, and Business & Audience Insights, The Walt Disney Studios. “With a strong summer already in place, we are eager to carry that momentum forward over the coming years thanks to a creative wellspring of bold and imaginative stories coming from our world-class studios—including several new chapters of two revered franchises, Avatar and Star Wars.”

DieHard Brand Extends to New Category

The infamous Sears DieHard brand, which launched in1967 in the automotive category, will now license its IP for lawn and garden products in an agreement with YAT Electric Appliance Co., Ltd.

“The DieHard brand is one of the most storied and trusted American legacy brands and is woven into our American lifestyle,” said Peter Boutros, president of Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands and chief brand officer for Sears and Kmart. “For more than 50 years, Americans have powered their vehicles with DieHard. Now they will be able to rely on DieHard for their lawn and garden equipment, as well. No other brand has the reputation for performance like DieHard’s. This is one more example of our expansion strategy to unleash the power of the DieHard brand. We will maintain direct and active involvement in building the business with our licensing partners at YAT.”

“DieHard products have a reputation for being powerful, durable, authentic and innovative,” said Todd Murphy, president of YAT U.S.A. “We’re pleased to work with the DieHard team to develop hand-held four-cycle gas, battery and corded lawn and garden products that will provide the ultimate in power.”

The new collection of trimmers, blowers and chain saws, will hit retail in the fall.

Disney Reports Modest Q2

The Walt Disney Company reported quarterly earnings for Q2 ended March 30 were up 3% to $14.9 billion and up 1% to $30.2 billion for the first six months.

“We’re very pleased with our Q2 results and thrilled with the record-breaking success of Avengers: Endgame, which is now the second-highest grossing film of all time and will stream exclusively on Disney+ starting December 11th,” said Robert A. Iger, chairman and chief executive officer. “The positive response to our direct-to-consumer strategy has been gratifying, and the integration of the businesses we acquired from 21st Century Fox only increases our confidence in our ability to leverage decades of iconic storytelling and the powerful creative engines across the entire company to deliver an extraordinary value proposition to consumers.”

While 2Q was basically flat, the company’s stock is strong and as is its potential. Remember, the company is still digesting the Fox acquisition and investing heavily in its new streaming service. In addition, the company is well-positioned for the second half with 14 films hitting the bid screen, the debut of its new Star Wars theme park attraction, plus major consumer products launches for Star Wars, Toy Story and Frozen, among others.

Parks, Experiences and Products segment posted a Q2 revenue increase of 5% to $6.2 billion and operating income increase of 15% to $1.5 billion. According to the company’s statement, “The increase at our consumer products business was driven by growth at our games business, partially offset by a decrease at our merchandise licensing business. Operating income growth at our games business was due to the sale of rights to a video game and royalties from the licensed title Kingdom Hearts III, which was released in the current quarter. The decrease at our merchandise licensing business was driven by lower minimum guarantee shortfall recognition due to the adoption of ASC 606 (see page 5), partially offset by a favorable foreign currency impact.”

XFL Signs Broadcast Deals

Following the recent abrupt ending to the Alliance of American Football league, another new pro football league is set to kick-off in February 2020.

Founded by WWE head Vince McMahon, the XFL announced multi-year agreements with ESPN and Fox Sports to televise games weekly on broadcast TV (ABC and FOX) complemented by games on cable (ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2).

While the new broadcast deals are critical to the success of the XFL, skepticism as to whether fans will embrace another pro football league continues. However, with major markets, new rules, and the promotional and marketing expertise of McMahon, the XFL may surprise and survive. The league already has a Fan Shop and is selling an array of licensed merchandise.

“We are thrilled to partner with ESPN and Fox Sports, two innovative media companies with extensive experience in world-class football production that will undoubtedly help us reimagine football,” said Vince McMahon, XFL founder & chairman. “The XFL broadcast schedule provides us with incredible reach and makes it easy for fans to watch our games consistently every weekend.”

The agreements were negotiated by CAA Sports and Evolution Media Capital (EMC), on behalf of the XFL. The XFL will begin with eight teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle Tampa Bay and Washington D.C.

kathy ireland Worldwide Adds Top Celeb

Singer and actress Vanessa Williams has signed with Sterling Winters Company (SWC), a wholly owned subsidiary of kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW) for theatrical, music, licensing and brand management.

Based on her popularity and accomplishments, Williams offers a major opportunity for various brand extensions and sponsorships. And Ireland and her group will provide the expertise and creativity needed to expand the Williams brand. Williams is currently in post-production on the ABC pilot “The Happy Accident,” and is cast in Disney Junior’s animated comedy “T.O.T.S.”

“Vanessa is a global pop culture icon and an artistic treasure,” says Kathy Ireland, chair, CEO and chief designer of kathy ireland Worldwide. “All of us at Sterling Winters Company and kiWW have admired her limitless talent, inspiring beauty, and incredible career accomplishments for years, as well as her unwavering dedication to making the world a better place through her advocacy and philanthropic endeavors.  Vanessa is, of course, one of the most beautiful women in the world.”

“I am thrilled to join the stellar team of Sterling Winters Company,” says Vanessa Williams. “Their excellence, knowledge, and bravery in every facet of multiple businesses, makes me so excited about my future endeavors and very secure with my diverse career opportunities.”

The SWC / kiWW management team includes Ireland; Stephen Roseberry, president and CMO; Jon Carrasco, EVP and global creative director; Steve Rosenblum, EVP concerts and artist administration; and Steven Glick, a William Morris Endeavor and ICM veteran, who currently serves as EVP of content and broadcasting, and is the daily managing executive for Williams.

Williams has earned four Emmy nominations, 11 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, three SAG award nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards and 3three Satellite Awards.

Deal of the Week: Netflix

Netflix signed a first-look deal with comic-book publisher Dark Horse. This deal could help offset its loss of Disney/Marvel properties and it certainly has the potential to deliver a huge exclusive series which would provide a competitive advantage for Netflix.

Store of the Week: “Go”

Yet another trendy brick and mortar store opened in New York providing a glimpse of the future of retail. The 12th Amazon Go store opened in Brookfield Place shopping mall in lower Manhattan and is the first to accept cash. Remember, numerous reports project that Amazon could have 3,000 Go stores over the next few years.

Closing of the Week

Party City announced it is closing 45 stores this year and it is blaming it all on a helium shortage. Well, some may think it’s a lot of “hot air” but it may be only one of the reasons for the move. The closings represent about 5% of its total 870 stores. Other reasons cited by PC CEO, “optimize our market level performance, focus on most profitable locations and improve the overall health of our store portfolio.”

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