by JULI LENNETT, senior vice president, industry advisor, toys, The NPD Group
On Sunday evening, I just happened to catch Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue of the Academy Awards. During those few minutes, he said a joke that likely struck a chord with every minority and woman watching. He said, “Black Panther and Wonder Woman were massive hits, which is almost a miracle because I remember a time when studio heads didn’t think a woman or a minority could open a superhero movie—and I remember that time because it was March of last year.”
While it struck a chord with me, too, I put it out of my mind as I flipped to another channel.
On Monday, that joke crossed my mind again when NPD’s weekly data for U.S. toys was released. When looking at which licenses were rising in the ranks, low and behold, there was Black Panther coming in as the #3 license for the week ending February 24, the first full week after the movie’s release on February 12. I thought to myself, “I wonder if the toy industry had low expectations for this movie?”
So, I did a little digging into some of the advanced measures in the data.
For the month of January, before the movie was released, Black Panther was already well-distributed and in 87 percent of the stores by dollar volume that we have in our POS panel. Thumbs up for the channel; they were selling it. And, when looking at the weighted velocity per item carried in January, Black Panther items were already moving off the shelf faster than the items tied to other movies from last year in the month before their movie releases, with the exception of Star Wars and Transformers. The Black Panther toys seemed to be resonating with consumers.
What was interesting was that, among the stores carrying Black Panther toys, stores only carried 11 toys on average. This was similar to what we saw with Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Thor. Compared to other big action movies, this was nearly half the number of toys carried on average for Justice League, one-third of Power Rangers, and one-quarter of Spider-Man. Not planning for a broader assortment of Black Panther toys might have been a miss in this case.
It would appear that, not only does the motion picture industry have the wrong idea about a minority or woman opening a superhero movie, but perhaps the toy industry might learn a thing or two from Black Panther as well. With these initial figures coming in for January and several weeks of February, it looks like Black Panther is going to not only be a success at the box office, but will also be a success story for the toy industry, which so badly needs a feel-good story right now. I, for one, am rooting for Black Panther to be a big success in the toy aisle.