With the recent success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’re kicking off the year with the 11 movies that sold the most merchandise. You have most likely bought a character-inspired gift over the holidays for your family and friends or probably received one for yourself. This only goes to show how profitable movies are not only in the box office arena but also in merchandise.
Frozen took the world by storm in 2013 and it has since maintained its stronghold in the retail market. Star Wars is continuously breaking records in both ticket and merchandise sales with the release of the franchise’s seventh installment. Superheroes from DC and Marvel are also bestsellers especially with the cinematic universe both studios are currently expanding.
The Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) reported that the 2014 retail sales of licensed merchandise like cartoon characters, brands, and sports teams have reached $241.5 billion. What’s more impressive is that the character and entertainment category accounted for 44.4% in merchandise sales, generating $107 billion in revenue.
We have curated this list from Forbes, MSN Money, The Licensing Letter, and Venture Capital Post. We then ranked the movies according to their franchise’s merchandise sales. These movies have broken and created their own retail records, exceeding expectations from fans and movie industry analysts. They can even be included in the craziest records registered in the Guinness book with the unprecedented success they’ve had.
We won’t keep you waiting, here are the movies that sold the most merchandise!
11. Despicable Me/Minions
Earning $267 million in licensed merchandise in 2014, the Despicable Me franchise from Universal is one of the most profitable movies we have seen in recent years. The franchise already has three movies to date (i.e. Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, Minions), generating $70 million a year in consumer products such as plush toys, apparel, and other merchandise. From McDonald’s Happy Meal toys to minions-inspired theme parks, the banana-lovin’ creatures have definitely won the hearts of kids, teens, and adults. Minions have become the Mickey Mouse of Universal, a money-making machine fueled by pill-shaped creatures in goggles.
Batman remains to be DC’s number one licensed character. With $494 million in merchandise sales, the Caped Crusader still holds a steady market share for boys dreaming of becoming superheroes. It has eight movies in the franchise over the span of 23 years. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 back in May 1939, marking a 76-year history for Gotham’s hero. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy brought Batman front and center once again and further increased the demand for Batman merchandise. With Batman V Superman hitting theaters on March 25, 2016, the franchise is expected to see a spike in merchandise revenue.
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Named after classical painters, the novelty of the four ninja turtles hasn’t worn out yet. Earning $900 million in merchandise sales, the pizza-lovin’ bunch continue to entertain viewers of all ages. The franchise currently has five movies with the most recent being a live-action film directed by Michael Bay. Nickelodeon also had a successful reboot of the show in 2012, which contributed to the boost in retail sales. The franchise revolves around the fighting chops and humor of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael with rodent sensei Master Splinter. Fans will be delighted to know that another TMNT movie is underway. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows hits theaters on June 3, 2016. Get ready for more cowabunga and merchandise sales this year!
The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is also one of the mightiest in merchandise sales, raking in more than $1 billion in global retail sales. They may not be as popular as Batman or Spider-Man, but the Avengers is seen to have the most potential in terms of licensed products. Marvel recognized this as they revealed last year that the marketing plan for Avengers: Age of Ultron was to “Make the big bigger” according to Paul Gitter, Disney Consumer Products’ senior VP of Marvel Licensing. They have seen the success of the first film and they plan to ride on it while pushing its merchandise magnitude even more with the second film. With two successful blockbuster movies and two more underway—The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2, this Marvel franchise is expected to bring in more product demand from fans. It is forecasted to bring in $6 billion worth of merchandise sales in the coming years.
Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is a perennial hot property with $1.3 billion in global retail sales. With five movies under its belt, Spider-Man is a character that crosses over the adult and children market. With the web slinger joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sales of Spider-Man merchandise has already peaked according to Gitter. An untitled Spider-Man reboot is currently in the works and is set to be released on July 28, 2017, starring Tom Holland as the new Peter Parker. He will also appear in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which hits theaters on May 6, 2016. As far as early reviews are concerned, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn said that Spider-Man in this movie is amazing and “off the charts.”
Transformers is already building its own cinematic universe with four more movies in the pipeline aside from the previous four blockbuster movies directed by Michael Bay. With an accumulated merchandise earnings of $3 billion dollars, there is no stopping the surge in toy sales for this franchise. License-owner Hasbro attributes the majority of its 2014 profit increase to Transformers, posting $4.28 billion in revenue that year. Marketing efforts are now gearing up toward Transformers 5, which is expected to boost merchandise sales. The fifth movie in the Autobots universe is set to be released on 2017.
The Frozen fever is showing no signs of slowing down. According to Walt Disney Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs, Frozen’s merchandise sales in 2015 is 10 times as high as the same period in 2014. The movie was only shown in 2013 with only a single movie in the franchise. What Frozen has accomplished in the span of two years is remarkable as it has already raked in as much as $5.3 billion in merchandise sales, beating other brands that have been in the industry for decades. The Frozen phenomenon is so huge that 2.6 million children were dressed as either Anna, Elsa or Olaf during the Halloween of 2014. We’re predicting that in a few years, Frozen can land in the top two spot in our 11 movies that sold the most merchandise list.
4. Harry Potter
Harry Potter is a series that has captured an entire generation of readers. All seven books were made into movies with moviegoers seeing Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) growing before their very eyes. The blockbuster films and best-selling books combined created a $21-billion empire with $7 billion worth of merchandise sales. Fans bought wands, hats, Quidditch equipment, and “invisibility cloaks.” The franchise is expected to have a major revival as soon as the spinoff movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits the big screen on November 18, 2016. The prequel story to the Harry Potter series was also written by J.K. Rowling. The movie stars Eddie Redmayne.
3. Toy Story
Toy Story is one of Disney’s most profitable franchise, earning $9 million in global retail sales. From its first movie, kids have fallen in love with the idea of talking toys as it feeds their imagination even more. Toy Story 3 alone sold 3.5 million units of merchandise. It is also the highest-grossing Pixar movie to date. The Toy Story franchise is probably one of the hardest to outgrow for young kids. Who can ever forget the dream team of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head, and other adorable toys in Andy’s room? They are fun, adventurous, and most of all they perfectly sum up what childhood is all about—PLAY.
Lightning McQueen has become every little boy’s best buddy at some point. The proof? A whopping $10 billion global merchandise sales. Parents can vouch that their tiny troopers’ need for speed was satisfied with Cars and Cars 2 albeit the latter not being up to par with its predecessor. It may not be the highest grossing animated film ever but it has brought in huge merchandise sales. The franchise has been so successful that it warranted the opening of its own theme park! In 2012, Disney opened “Cars Land” in California where all the scenes in the movie come to life. Best of all? Cars 3 is set to be released on June 16, 2017. So get ready for more McQueen!
1. Star Wars
Most of you have probably predicted Star Wars to be the runaway winner in our list. With seven movies in the franchise, the epic series about a galaxy far, far away is also light years away in terms of merchandise revenue. Star Wars has generated more than $32 billion in retail merchandise sales alone since 1977. On top of that, it reportedly increases by at least $1.5 billion each year according to the NPD Group and Lucasfilm.
The franchise has already accumulated $12 billion in toy sales alone. Nielsen predicts that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will generate $5 billion in merchandise revenue during its “first year of release.” In 2014, it earned $2.3 billion in global retail sales. Disney bought the Star Wars franchise from Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, a cheap price tag compared to the profits it’s generating now.
These 11 movies that sold the most merchandise are both entertaining for the fans and profitable for the studios. Most of them have multiple films in their franchise, showing the growing followers of the brand. These movies have made gift giving easier for consumers providing them with different merchandise options. If there’s one thing we can learn from them it’s to always factor in how one’s brand can become more than just a name. It’s about pushing the limits a bit further by making it a novelty that encourages customer loyalty.