Dennis Brekke

Hasbro Wants to Turn Play-Doh Into a Movie Star

With sales surging, the toymaker steals a script from Lego

In a world of storied superheroes and fire-belching dragons, Hasbro is pouring its movie budget into Play-Doh. The toymaker confirmed on a conference call this morning that it will stretch the goopy playstuff to the silver screen.

Hasbro is in talks with 20th Century Fox and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig to make the film, according to Deadline. While day-glo dough might not seem like the richest source material, it is—well—malleable. Hasbro has already molded its Play-Doh line around Disney princesses and comic-book characters. And it has certainly worked with less-lifelike material (see: Battleship).

“We think it’s a very fun format for a movie and for storytelling,” Chief Executive Officer Brian Goldner told analysts this morning.

In short, Play-Doh is no longer just for ill-advised snacking. Sales of the stuff increased by more than 10 percent in the recent quarter, despite a social-media kerfuffle over a Play-Doh accessory that looked remarkably like a penis.

In some countries, Play-Doh is Hasbro’s best-selling product, which is impressive for an industrial compound originally designed to clean wallpaper. In China, Hasbro already has a TV show about Play-Doh

Elsewhere in the company, the brightest points are increasingly where Hasbro toys intersect with movie and TV screens. Kids these days, it turns out, don’t want to play with things they can’t also watch and, to some extent, vice versa.

In the first three months of 2015, Hasbro sales crushed Wall Street expectations, increasing 5 percent despite being severely hamstrung by a weak dollar. Driving the purchases were retailers stocking up on toys for a slate of much anticipated films that include Avengers: Age of Ultron, which premieres May 1, Jurassic World, coming in June, and the next iteration of Star Wars, which will hit screens in December. Revenue in Hasbro’s entertainment and licensing division surged 74 percent in the first quarter, to $61 million.

Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz said Hasbro has seen a windfall from Hollywood’s recent penchant for action franchises. Instead of having the toy licensing rights to one major movie release a year, it is now cranking up production for a big release every quarter.

“All of the entertainment stuff just kind of markets itself,” Katz said. “It’s almost like they’ve found a better way to get in front of consumers than advertising.”

In greenlighting a Play-Doh film, Hasbro executives were no doubt emboldened by The Lego Movie, which was by all accounts a massive success. If the project had sold either movie tickets or toys, it may have been justifiable. But the film managed to do both, thanks to a sharp team of writers, a cast full of household names, and a pipeline of little figurines in the works.

To date, The Lego Movie has garnered $469 million in box-office revenue since its debut early last year. And Lego the toy company reported a 13 percent increase in sales last year and a 16 percent spike in profit.

For a Play-Doh movie to work, Katz said it will likely have to follow a similar script: colorful characters for the kids and thinly veiled satire for the parents. And if the film succeeds, Hasbro will find plenty of other potential stars in its catalogue of brands. Picture it: Yahtzee, the movie.

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