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Full Coverage of Comic-Con; Walmart and NHL News

Comic-Con International has brought franchises including Voltron, Captain America, and Star Trek, to the estimated 125,000 comic fans gathered in San Diego July 21-24, while toymakers have embraced the opportunity to funnel exclusive licensed merchandise to collectors.

Toy companies like Mattel and Hasbro offer exclusive merchandise presented in unique packaging that committed collectors would appreciate, according to Gregory Schmidt’s New York Times article about toymakers at Comic-Con. “Packaging is not just something to hold the figure,” said Frank Varela, an art director for Mattel, in the article. “Packaging enhances the experience of having the toy. It harkens to nostalgia for the fan boys.”

Along with Swamp Thing and Voltron toys, Mattel comes to Comic-Con with a 20-inch replica of the Stay-Puft Marshamallow Man from Ghostbusters, with a city diorama and packaged inside a box resembling a suitcase. Mattel also brings two Hot Wheels vehicles, including the DeLorean from Back to the Future with a movie diorama.

Hasbro brings a Star Wars set that includes 12 action figures in a box designed to look like the Death Star. The company will also display Ultimate Optimus Prime, Marvel Universe Sentinel, Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, and the new Kre-O brand, which is making its Comic-Con debut with 12 building sets featuring Transformers characters.

Despite the current temperatures this week (96º in NYC), Comic-Con isn’t always so hot for film studios.

Comic-Con attendees can generate negative buzz that hurts a film, said Tim Palen, Lionsgate’s president for theatrical marketing, in an AdAge.com article by Andrew Hampp.

“If the fans don’t think something is cool, they will let you know—instantly, and passionately,” Palen told Ad Age. “So if you come to Comic-Con, you’d better have the goods, because there are other opportunities to launch, and it’s very hard to recover from bad Comic-Con buzz.”

Mid-sized studios Lionsgate and Relativity Media are presenting at least four movies each, showing screenings or selected content from their upcoming releases, while Warner Bros., Disney, and DreamWorks stayed home this year.

Relativity announced at Comic-Con that it has optioned the feature film rights for Voltron from World Event Productions. The studio will adapt the live-action big screen version from the 1984 animated series Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Comic-Con is big for Voltron this year, as the franchise made it Comic-Con panel debut Thursday with a presentation of new and classic Voltron content.

Dissenting from the worry of other big studios, Sony has a panel for 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man movie and is advertising the Ghost Rider sequel. Comic-Con also scored participation from Summit Entertainment with a panel for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Universal with a Cowboys and Aliens premiere, and Paramount with a Captain America: The First Avenger screening and a panel for The Adventures of Tintin. Audience members of Captain America will receive RealD 3D Collector’s custom red, white, and blue Captain America glasses, a limited-edition poster, and a grand prize package of Captain America merchandise and other Marvel items given away to an audience member at each screening.

Television properties have a presence at Comic-Con as well. Nickelodeon, Toynami, and vinyl toy brand Unkl partnered to create co-branded SpongeBob SquarePants urban vinyl toys, modeled after Unkl’s UniPo figures, available this fall. Toynami unveiled working prototypes of the first wave of figures at Comic-Con, which will include SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and The Flying Dutchman. Nickelodeon Consumer Products also unveiled a new lineup of toys from Jazwares for Fanboy and Chum Chum, available in August from Toys “R” Us.

CBS has come to the convention with exclusive sneak peeks, signings, and limited-edition products based on its television brands, including Star Trek, CSI, NCIS, Dexter, Charmed, Cheers, and The Twilight Zone. Since these TV properties have been long-established and don’t face the same need movies have to garner buzz and then box office sales, TV shows seem to cater to the collector in a similar way as the toy companies. CBS attends Comic-Con to reach its audience directly, said Liz Kalodner, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Consumer Products. “By offering these exclusive items we can reward our greatest fans with products that can’t be found anywhere else.”

—Melissa Tinklepaugh

Walmart Will Share Sales Data

Big news from the retail front, where Walmart has agreed to share sales data with research organizations through Nielson & Co.

Walmart previously kept sales data to itself, leading research firms to use consumer panel data and advanced modeling to estimate the mega-retailer’s packaged-good sales totals.

Nielsen’s Niffer Frighetto told Advertising Age‘s Jack Neff that sales data will be available in a “few months,” and that the data will cover sales from U.S. Walmart stores, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam’s Club, and will include some historical data.

NHL Announces A Good Number of Deals

The National Hockey League, of which the Boston Bruins are champions, announced 23 new licensees at its annual licensing and trade show Wednesday and Thursday.

New licensees include A&E Group for outerwear; Coveroo for cell phone covers; and Levelwear for apparel and outerwear in Canada. Franklin Sports also signed a renewal agreement for its two-decade partnership to create NHL Street Hockey Gear.

Did we mention that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup?

—Bryan Joiner

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