The season's stream of popcorn-selling CGI-laden epics and big corporate team-ups has only begun,
NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Summer movie blockbuster season made a bunch of jacked-up bros in tights $1 billion before Memorial Day, but it takes a whole lot of cash on the table just to get Robert Downey Jr. into his glory Iron Man chest thing.
The Avengers cost more than $220 million to make, and a bunch of that cash came from corporate sponsorship. Marvel(:MVL), Paramount(:VIA) and Disney(:DIS) have been dragging a solid core of sponsors through multiple prequel films and raked in an estimated $100 million in sponsorship money for The Avengers alone. Four years ago, The Dark Knight made $1 billion on its own and set the standard for just how much cash companies could squeeze from a superhero franchise.
Avengers only starts this season's stream of popcorn-selling CGI-laden epics and big corporate team-ups. We took a look at this year's field and found six films with enough deep-pocketed sponsors to make Times Square look indie by comparison:
Release date: Now showing
Sponsors: Acura(:HMC), Dr. Pepper(:BPS), Harley-Davidson(:DPS), Hershey(:HSY), Oracle(:ORCL), Symantec(:SYMC), Visa(:V), Wyndham Hotels and Resorts(:WYN), Red Baron pizza, Land O' Frost lunch meats, Colantotte bracelets
There would have been more sponsor names up there, but Disney doesn't do fast food and kicked Burger King(:BKC), Dunkin' Donuts(:DNKN) and 7-Eleven out of their longtime superhero sponsor slots. You can bring that Thor hammer down on folks when you still have sponsors such as Acura, which tied the launch of its new NSX to the film. Kiddie meals come up a bit short when companies are building cars around your film.
Men In Black III
Release date: Now showing
Sponsors: Gameloft, Activision(:ATVI), Baskin-Robbins, Dunkin' Donuts
Paying for a $375 million film requires a whole lot of selling out. Gameloft and Activision are placing a big bet on folks remembering this franchise well enough after its 10-year hiatus to buy Google(:GOOG) Android and iPhone apps or more expensive console video games for Sony's(:SNE) PlayStation 3, Microsoft's(:MSFT) Xbox or Nintendo's Wii. Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts play it somewhat safer by offering '80s-style fast-food tie ins such as Lunar Cheesecake ice cream and Undercover Black Cocoa star-shaped donuts, but are they really worth buying if Will Smith isn't rapping about them?
Release date: June 22
The motion-control video game has already been produced by Disney Interactive and is coming to the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. The heroine, Merida, has already received the Disney Princess treatment and her tiara, curly red wig, dress, boots and bow-and-arrow set are already available. The Merida character's been introduced at Disney World and Brave toys are hitting Disney Store shelves. If all that isn't enough, Disney and Pixar temporarily re-released Pixar films such as Toy Story 3 and Wall-E on Memorial Day weekend just to wash the Cars 2 taste out of everyone's mouths. Remind us again why this film needs a sponsor other than Disney.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Release date: June 29
Is a toy still a tie-in if the movie's based on it? Every time, if it's a Hasbro-based film. The folks who brought you the Transformers franchise and a film based on the board game Battleship know how to spark multimillion-dollar interest in toy films and are adept at getting sponsors such as Subway and Chevron(:CVX) -- which both signed on for Battleship duty -- to play along. Symantec(:SYMC), Burger King and 7-Eleven all co-sponsored the last G.I. Joe film in 2009, but this movie would do just fine if Hasbro licensed star Channing Tatum's likeness for action figures from each of the five films he's been in this year. There's goodhearted kidnapper Channing from Haywire, patient and sensitive husband Channing from The Vow, bromantic buddy cop Channing from 21 Jump Street and stripper Channing from Magic Mike. Collect them all!
The Amazing Spider Man
Release date: July
Sponsors: Marvel, Hasbro, Kellogg(:K), Sony, Hershey, Mega Brands, OPI Products, CKE Restaurants, Activision
It's been 10 years, three movies and about $2.5 billion in global box-office receipts since the first Spider-Man movie released, so naturally studios' spider senses were tingling in anticipation of more revenue. Well fear not, true believers, because Spidey's back with a sack full of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. burgers, a pack of Twizzlers, an augmented-reality app and his own line of nail polish. Toys and video games are pretty much rubber-stamped onto any superhero project, but nail polish? Now that's amazing.
The Dark Knight Rises
Release date: June 20
Sponsors: PepsiCo(:PEP), Mattel(:MAT), Lego, Jakks Pacific, Warner Brothers(:TWX)
Four years ago, The Dark Knight made $1 billion on its own and set the standard for just how much cash companies could squeeze from a superhero franchise. With this year's installment marking the end of the trilogy, corporate partners have already strapped vacuums to their cash cow's udders. Warner Brothers has already made a highly successful line of Batman-based video games through its Warner Interactive branch and is tweaking the Dark Knight rides at its Six Flags amusement parks in anticipation of the film. Pepsi, meanwhile, plans to release its Bat-themed Mountain Dew Dark Berry in mid-June with cans featuring a bat symbol that appears when the can gets cold, while Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Mountain Dew NASCAR ride gets a Batman paint job just for the occasion.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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