When a movie or movie franchise becomes a hit, the gold rush rarely stops at the box office. Once Hollywood knows they have a hit on their hands, the merchandising and spin-off frenzy kicks into high gear, as businesses race to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of a hit film. The licensed merchandising industry for films alone is worth a staggering $262 billion according to the Hollywood Reporter, as global mega-franchises such as Star Wars and Avengers have spawned armies of loyal fans, who will happily pay top dollar for anything and everything to do with their favorite films.
While the sight of Harry Potter Lego sets, Hunger Games t-shirts, Marvel video games, and made-for-TV spin-offs of Disney’s Frozen are commonplace, what about the movies you wouldn’t expect to sell-out? It turns out wherever there’s even a glimpse of popularity, Hollywood can and will find a way to squeeze some extra cash out of it. Here are the movies you didn’t expect to merchandise.
Just because a spin-off is unexpected, doesn’t mean it’s bad. The industry has produced some surprising gems over the years where you would least expect to find them. One surprising hit of the year was in the form of the game that gets no-one excited; Monopoly. The monopoly version of the film Guardians of the Galaxy II actually sold surprisingly well, with players commenting on the witty gameplay and innovative twist on original Monopoly.
The video game realm has also thrown up some surprise hits. Few people would have guessed that the survival horror film The Thing would have much potential re. merchandising rights, however the 2011 video game version by Konami ended up being a surprise hit, winning numerous awards, selling over a million copies and earning a reputation as one of the greatest horror games of all time. Even more niche, we have the repurposing of hit movies into slot machine games. The online casino giant Betway chose to release a slot machine version of the hit 2011 film Bridesmaids, a crossover nobody could’ve predicted, but definitely worth a play.
One of the ultimate sleeper hits in this area would probably be the 2002 PC game version of the first Die Hard film, called Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza. The plot requires you to quite literally play through the film, but with a genius survival element that forces you to make inventive uses out of your surroundings. The game has since gone on to achieve something of a cult status, proving that games spin-offs of Bruce Willis films actually can be cool.
Despite there being a few gems out there, most unexpected spin-offs are either plain awful or downright bizarre. The one the literally nobody asked for would probably be the 2010 Nintendo DS game based on the Lindsay Lohan film Mean Girls. The game is a point-and-click story mode in which you engage in multiple-choice interactions with Regina George and the like, in a misguided quest to become queen bee. There have probably been few spin-off attempts as lazy and shallow as this one.
Moving away from video games for a second and focusing on a franchise that has spawned thousands of merchandise items, Harry Potter. While this doesn’t really count as unexpected, some of the games and merch produced in the race to milk the cash cow definitely deserve an honorable mention here. One of the strangest merchandising decisions ever made was probably the release of a fully-sized vibrating Nimbus 2000 broomstick by Mattel. The product quickly caused uproar due to its slightly, urm, adult nature, and was quickly pulled from the shelves.
To round off, there’s no better point to finish that with the most epic failure of all time. Following the release of the hit Spielberg film ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Atari plowed millions into developing a video game version for immediate release. The rush to hit the shelves shows as the game is quite literally unplayable. The reception was so bad that sales plummeted, and Atari was forced to bury over a million unsold units in a landfill in New Mexico. Still, though, the game has emerged as something of a collector’s item in 2018, often fetching hundreds of dollars apiece on eBay.
The corporate side of Hollywood is a funny world, as these releases show. It seems that our insatiable appetite for content will continue producing some pretty weird spin-offs for years to come.