Skip to main content

Back on top: Paramount regains control of its licenses


After a long hiatus, Paramount Pictures has a licensing division under its own umbrella again and the new team is already moving on several projects. The properties it’s promoting at the Licensing Show this year include two new theatrical films and catalog titles that are ripe for a merchandising revival.

“We’ve put together a good group of about 25 people that is really focused on both new theatrical releases and older properties,” said Michael Bartok, evp and head of Paramount Licensing. “There’s a lot of opportunity here to create new merchandising programs and reinvigorate some older ones.”

The new division will oversee merchandising and licensing for all films from Paramount Pictures, MTV Films, DreamWorks and Nickelodeon Movies along with stage plays, film-clip licensing and themed restaurants like its Bubba Gump Shrimp chain.

The project generating the most interest this year is “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” a film based on the popular series of children’s books. The first film set in the strange backyard of the dilapidated Spiderwick Estate stars Nick Nolte, Sarah Bolger and Mary-Louise Parker and is due for release in 2008.

“We think it’s the most inherently merchandisable film Paramount has done in some time,” said Bartok, who also said the film should appeal to the same audience that made “The Chronicles of Narnia” a huge hit for Disney. And he noted that the Spiderwick stories include more than 150 creatures in its parallel world that provide a treasure trove of material for potential licensees, especially for toys.

Bartok said the toy line will have a unique look and expects to have toy licensees on board this month. “We’re looking to create a customized toy program that involves a few different licensees,” said Bartok.

Paramount has also put together a limited licensing program for the November release of the Robert Zemeckis film “Beowulf.” McFarlane Toys has signed on to create a line of action figures and Fantasy Flight will create board games based on the legendary tale. The studio is also working on a specialized merchandise program for the 2008 film version of “Sweeney Todd” that will be directed by Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp.

With its new licensing division in place, Paramount has come full circle from the days before its merger with Viacom. The year after that merger, licensing was put under the umbrella of Viacom Consumer Products and remained there until 2004 when responsibilities were shifted to Nickelodeon at its New York offices.

But having the studio and licensing division 3,000 miles apart apparently wasn’t working, so last fall the studio formed a new licensing division based at Paramount’s fabled lot in Hollywood. “It’s clear that the most efficient and effective way forward for Paramount is to have direct oversight over the exploitation of our properties,” said Rob Moore, president of worldwide marketing, distribution and home entertainment for Paramount.

Bartok agrees that having the licensing division so far away from the studio the past few years created a “proximity problem” and said the new arrangement allows licensing to work closely with the theatrical and home entertainment departments.

The closer ties should help as Paramount works on more merchandising opportunities for catalog films like “The Godfather,” which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and already has more than a dozen licensees on board. The list includes NTD Apparel for sportswear; Pyramid Posters for posters and postcards; Hot Topic for mugs, glasses and mobile phone accessories; and American Greetings.

And the division is already working on licensing packages for upcoming DVD releases like the Will Ferrell comedy “Blades of Glory, ” which will have a good-sized campaign when it’s released in late summer.

“We weren’t here before the theatrical release of ‘Blades of Glory’ but it’s a good candidate for specialty merchandise when the DVD is released,” said Bartok. “We’re working with Hot Topic on a variety of items and we have several licensees on board for apparel.”

The licensing division will also have a hand in the Paramount theme park business, where Bartok served as evp of business affairs for four years.

In May, Paramount Licensing reached an agreement with Daewoo Motor Sales to explore the development of a Paramount Pictures-based theme park in South Korea. The proposed theme park would be built in Incheon—about a one-hour drive from Seoul—on a site that is owned by Daewoo.

A study conducted by an outside consultant estimates the proposed park would cost $800 million to build and would include a 120-acre resort, a five-story hotel and a high-end shopping and entertainment center. Paramount Licensing will provide access to the studio’s properties but will not be an investor or fund development of the project.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds