Gimlet-eyed shoppers noticed “Ghostbusters” toys selling at clearance prices at one of the nation’s largest chains. The New York Post reported on the price break, identified by several Target shoppers.
— M▲G▲TRON (@CthulhusGames) July 1, 2016
Only Target brass insists it’s all a big mistake.
“This is an error and we are working quickly to address it. We apologize for any guest confusion,” a company representative told The New York Post.
This reporter went to his local Target store to see if those markdowns were mere aberrations. Sure enough, several “Ghostbusters” toys were similarly labeled with the chain’s “Clearance” stickers.
Mind you, these toy markdowns came mere days before “Ghostbusters” officially opens -- July 15. The entire “Ghostbusters” toy section, in fact, was practically nonexistent.
You had to squint to see Slimer, Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert action figure and related toys. For comparison’s sake, other robust brands, like “The Avengers,” enjoyed copious shelf space. And the last “Avengers” movie came out in 2015.
Damage Control 101?
Why would Target give up on the Ghostbusters brand’s marketability while maintaining it was doing nothing of the kind?
The “Ghostbusters” film isn’t just another summer blockbuster. It’s a new front in the culture war.
The mainstream media has been cheering on the film, which replaces the four male leads from the 1984 original with four female comics. Article after article either blasted the film’s naysayers (“haters,” “misogynists“) or insisted the film’s talented director, Paul Feig, simply couldn’t fail with the project.
Feminists rallied behind the film, acknowledging Hollywood’s profound gender disparity across the board. The film’s cast appeared with Hillary Clinton during an episode of “Ellen,” further hammering home the feminist angle.
Should an all-female “Ghostbusters” crush the competition, it could pave the way for more women-centric films. A box office bomb, they argued, might make industry bean counters think twice before greenlighting similar projects.
There’s some truth in that. And it’s a shame Hollywood thinking could be swayed against women from just one box office disappointment.
It’s still not the media’s job to cheer on a particular film. Perhaps Target essentially got caught doing the same.
Hope Springs Eternal
For all the audience knows, Feig’s “Ghostbusters” could be a worthy follow-up to the ’80s smash. Few people have actually seen the film in question. Early reviews haven’t been kind. The Hollywood Reporter is calling it “a bust,” although other critics haven’t been so harsh.
Critics didn’t throw their arms around any of the “Transformers” films, but those toys sold briskly all the same.
Why are “Ghostbusters” goodies relegated to the bargain bin so soon?
Andrew Kardon, a blogger at Go Ask Daddy and former toy industry editor with ToyFare Magazine, puts some blame on the film’s calamitous PR push. Case in point: that justly maligned trailer which became the most hated film preview in YouTube history.
“It just looked awful. Nothing funny or redeeming about it,” Kardon says.
That fueled the negative buzz which began when the project first hit the news cycle.
“There is tremendous backlash for this film on so many levels. Before anything was revealed, the idea of a reboot brought on the haters. Then it’s announced an all-female cast will take over, which brought on further scrutiny and unfortunately a tidal wave of misogyny,” Kardon says.
That hardly helped sales of “Ghostbusters” action figures. Kardon couldn’t recall toys connected to a film release suffering a price drop before opening night.
“I’m sure it’s happened, but on such a huge movie like this I can’t imagine,” he says.
Part of the merchandise woes could be connected to the all-female cast.
“Female figures have notoriously been handled horribly in the toy industry, with ‘Star Wars” lack of Rey figures initially being a great example,” he says.
Sony, the studio behind the new film, clearly hoped to reap the benefits of rebooting a charmed brand. Part of any film franchise in 2016, of course, is its merchandising might. George Lucas became a very, very rich man simply by retaining the rights to “Star Wars” merchandise early in his career.
Last year, “Star Wars” licensed merchandise hauled in $251.7 billion.
Not every franchise can duplicate those insane figures. Still, a rebooted “Ghostbusters” franchise should be raking in cash from toys and ancillary products.
That may not be the case according to early indicators.
Jayden Frost, owner of DFW Vintage Toys in Carrollton, Texas, says customers are already bringing in some of the new “Ghostbusters” toys to trade for store credit.
“The toys are made pretty well, but we still sell the original toys much faster than the new ones,” Frost says.
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