Horror Show

Horror films—which represent a perennial-favorite genre—have been doing particularly well at the box office in recent years, with the theatrical success of M3GAN being one of the most recent examples. Streaming of horror movies took off during the pandemic, adding fans not just for new releases and well-known franchise movies but also years-ago classics and more obscure cult examples. And the number of horror films being produced remains strong, with more recent entrants such as Nope and Smile, released last year, joining long-running franchises such as the Scream and Halloween series, both of which added new installments in 2022.

All told, the horror genre drove about $700 million in U.S. ticket sales in 2022, down from 2019 levels but still a good business in the post-pandemic theatrical landscape.

Not surprisingly, licensed and licensor-developed product lines involving collections of new and classic horror film imagery have continued to develop in the last couple of years. While Halloween remains a strong sales window, there is year-round potential as well. Some examples:

  • Full Moon Features this month launched the Full Moon Horror Line, a range of toys based on FMF’s catalog of legacy properties. The first product is a full-size prop replica of Baby Oopsie from the cult film Demonic Toys, followed by a Bloodstone replica figure from the Subspecies franchise and a line of 1:1 replica puppets from the Puppet Master series. In addition to high-end collectibles, plans include mass products such as collectible blind boxes, lunch boxes, and figures from films including Tiny Terrors and Jack Attack.
  • Warner Bros. has been actively licensing its portfolio of horror films, including big names such as The Exorcist, The Conjuring, It, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and more, along with family horror fare such as Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice. Partners announced since last September have included Smiffys for costumes, Madame Tussauds for a Warner Bros. Icons of Horror exhibit at its New York location, and Funko for a Digital Pop! collection of NFTs with corresponding limited-edition physical collectibles. The WB Shop online also recently launched a Horror Collection featuring t-shirts, mugs, and the like based on its horror portfolio.
  • Epic Games-owned video game developer Psyonix integrated a collection of horror movie content into its video game Rocket League for its annual Haunted Hallows Halloween event in 2022. Properties included the Saw and Child’s Play franchises from Universal Studios and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Trick ‘r Treat from Legendary Pictures. The company’s previous crossover events have included horror IP such as Ghostbusters and Stranger Things.
  • The Cable Guys, a U.K. company that makes figurines that double as phone and controller holders, released a horror collection in 2021 consisting of characters from films such as Gremlins, It, and The Nightmare Before Christmas; characters from video games such as Call of Duty, Street Fighter V, and Borderland 3; and comic book characters including Venom and Deadpool Zombie from Marvel and the Joker from DC Comics.

In addition to these product lines involving collections of films and other horror entertainment, individual properties also continue to expand their licensing reach. MGM has been building its program for cult classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space since 2018, for example, with a total of 30 licensees on board today, including H&M, Hot Topic, Funko, Spirit Halloween, Toynk, Fright Rags, and Cakeworthy. And Rocky Horror Picture Show, represented globally for licensing by U.K.-based agency Golden Goose, has signed licensees Smiffys, Dark Horse Comics, and others in preparation for the film’s 50th anniversary this year.

As for M3GAN, from Universal Studios and Blumhouse, the first limited-edition apparel collection is available as an online exclusive to Blumhouse subscribers before an expected launch at the UNIVRS store at Universal City Walk. The growing presence of M3GAN products through print-on-demand sites and marketplaces such as Etsy, as well as fans online asking where they can get a M3GAN doll, suggests there will be more official merchandise to come soon.

Horror films to look forward to for the remainder of 2023 include Scream VI, Insidious: Chapter 5, The Nun 2, Cuckoo, a reboot of The Exorcist, and Saw X.

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