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Iron Man derivatives lead a new trend

(Global Times)

09:18, May 14, 2013

An Iron Man action figure available online Photo: Courtesy of Wen Yongyuan

After premiering on the Chinese mainland May 1, Iron Man 3 has crushed the competition at domestic box offices. According to mainland movie website, the film has raked in over 600 million yuan ($97 million) in the mainland as of Sunday. Besides the large profit being made from ticket sales, Iron Man derivatives are also leading a new trend.

On, mainland's most popular on-line shopping website, there are altogether 687 on-line shops that sell Iron Man derivatives. The products vary from T-shirts, models, Iron Man suits, iPhone cases and computer accessories. The best-selling product, a photo paper helmet of Iron Man, sold 256 pieces within the last 30 days.

Side products market

It is often the case that a popular movie or TV drama not only can bring high box office or audience ratings, but also can lead to the success to other related industries. As early as 2011, when romance comedy Love Is Not Blind became popular, some stuffed toys that appeared in the movie turned hot as well, and when Late Autumn screened in the Chinese mainland last year, the brown windbreaker Anna (Tang Wei) wears in the movie became a favorite choice for many female fans of the film.

As Zhang Zejing, an analyst in the media industry, told the Global Times, derivatives have a bright future in China. "It can be seen from foreign experiences like Hollywood where derivatives make up 60 percent of gross income," he said, adding that derivatives not only include toys but also theme parks, which some domestic movie companies are already trying.

In fact, derivatives have been popular for quite a while in the mainland. In the early 1990s, when US cartoon TV series Transformers became popular for mainland kids, its models sold well despite their extremely high prices.

In an interview with Changjiang Times, a 25-year-old seller with the nickname Dingding said that to do well in this industry, one must always be ahead of your peers. "[You] must update your products quickly… in the first two weeks after a movie is premiered, products should be highly promoted. But when it comes to the third week, [the previous] products need to be shifted down and changed for products of another popular movie or TV drama."

Keeping alert to the trend is also important. "After [you] watch a movie or TV drama, you should know at first glance which products [have potential]."

According to Dingding's experience, whether a derivative can sell well is determined by three factors: the popularity of a movie or TV show, the practical applicability of the product, and a unique symbol of the product.

Shops in dilemma

Yet, not every seller is profitable. Wen Yongyuan, a Taobao shop owner in Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times he began to sell Iron Man derivatives because he saw others doing it and thought it was a good business opportunity. However, every day he sold less than 10 pieces.

"There are a number of people selling [similar Iron Man derivatives], so the competition is fierce," he said.

While following a trend blindly is one reason an individual seller doesn't gain a large market share, there are many other factors influencing a large derivative company.

According to a report in Beijing Business Today, the quick rise and fall of Shanghai-based movie derivative company In Cinemas should be a lesson to its peers.

Founded in May, 2011, In Cinemas established cooperative deals with 12 cinemas in Shanghai within a month. It had gross profits of 80,000 to 100,000 yuan per month for one branch shop when there was a popular movie and 60,000 yuan in off seasons.

However, since last June, In Cinemas faced serious difficulties. Now the staff has been reduced from over 50 to only four. All that is left is one small stand selling overstocked products.

One of the senior leaders surnamed Weng told Beijing Business Today that besides the leaving of In Cinemas' founder, Jiang Hanguang, the most important reasons for the company's decline are that it lacks foresight on plans and doesn't have good communication with movie producers and cinemas.

Therefore, according to Weng, when a movie began to screen, related derivatives were not ready on shelves, and when the products were ready, the movie was about to close.

Xu Yahui, manager of another derivative company, Beijing Guoliang Youxin Culture Communications, told Beijing Business Today that because of the long-term unhealthy competition between peers, the prices became lower while original costs increased.

Lasting influence

Despite all the reasons, insiders tend to agree on one point: the domestic derivative market itself has a lot of problems that need to be looked at.

In Weng's opinion, movie derivatives are mostly still bought on impulse by domestic customers but in the future, they should become a habitual consumption like drinks and popcorn.

Xin Xiaodong, president of Beijing-based movie derivative company Universal Stars Media, however, thinks the market for derivatives relies on the lasting influence of a movie. According to a media report, the failure to influence is common for almost all domestic movies. Even the influence of works by famous directors like Zhang Yimou and Feng Xiaogang are completely over once the movies are shifted down the schedule.

He thinks it is because producers and investors are anxious to achieve quick success rather than create works that can endure over time.

Wei Pengju, a researcher of Cultural and Creative Industries Studies Center at Renmin University of China believes previous background research on the influence of the coming movie is very important. "Fewer than one in 10 [Hollywood movies] can produce derivatives," he told Beijing Business Today.

He added that those with the potential of making derivatives usually have a wide base before screening. For example Spider Man and Harry Potter, were already popular comics and novels.

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