Lost in a crowd?

Posted by Marty Brochstein on July 25, 2011

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Oh, the licensee’s dilemma, as portrayed not by a business writer, but rather by the film critic of the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday, in her review of “Captain America, First Avenger.” How does one figure out — 18 months or so in advance — what’s going to be able to maintain mindshare in a teenage audience, and prime shelf space at retail.

Here’s what Hornaday wrote:

“In any other cinematic era, ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ would be a bona fide movie event, the kind of swiftly moving, eye-popping, effects-heavy spectacle for which movies were made. But we live in the midst of a comic-book-movie glut, where no sooner has ‘Thor’ opened than it must make way for ‘X-Men: First Class,’ which then has to scoot down to make room for ‘Captain America,’ the better to set up next year’s superhero-pa-looza, ‘The Avengers.’

“Meanwhile, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman and the Hulk wait in the wings — tinkering, spinning, brooding and turning green with anticipation of their next moment in the spotlight.

“So ‘Captain America’ arrives already in danger of being lost in that wildly genetically enhanced shuffle, which is a shame, because it’s a terrific movie.”

In this case, we’re talking about the superhero genre, but the same holds true in any other entertainment area to which everyone’s rushing at the same time. Everyone who’s been in licensing for a while has a memory of some fabulous property that that seemed to have all the elements of success, if only it had been able to get onto enough shelves or into the right time slot. The first few paragraphs of Hornaday’s article are a reminder of how difficult it is to handicap the summer movie licensing race months in advance.