Mattel Launches a New Film Division to Help Revitalize Sales

Toy maker Mattel just opened a new division, Mattel Films, to develop and produce movies based on its brands and headed up by Academy Award-nominated producer Robbie Brenner. Known for her work on “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Mirror Mirror” and “The Fighter,” Brenner will report directly to Mattel chief executive/chair Ynon Kreiz, a media and entertainment veteran, who has worked on children’s content. The new division could help bolster Mattel, which has seen slumping sales since the shuttering of Toys R Us.

According to CNBC, “shares of Mattel rose 3.7 percent in aftermarket trading Thursday.” In turning to film, Mattel is following in the footsteps of rival Hasbro, whose “Transformers” films have grossed more than $4.37 billion in international box office receipts. Hasbro Studios has also leveraged its popular toy lines to create online shows, including “Littlest Pet Shop,” “My Little Pony” and “G.I. Joe.”

Mattel’s properties include Barbie, Monster High and Polly Pocket, all of which have been the subject of online shorts. Barbie, which had an appearance in Pixar’s “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3,” was featured in several home-release films but has never had her own big-screen story told by Mattel.

“Generations of children around the world have grown up with deep emotional connections to Mattel’s brands and characters,” said Brenner. “There are so many stories to be told and so many imaginations to be captured by these iconic brands.”

Kreiz comes to Mattel from his former role as chief executive/chair of Maker Studios, sold to The Walt Disney Company in 2014. Before that, he was chair/chief executive of Endemol Group, “one of the world’s largest independent television production companies,” and had co-founded Fox Kids Group Europe, a children’s entertainment company bought by Disney in 2002.

Comparing Hasbro’s path into media with Mattel only goes so far, because the former “has a market cap of $12.8 billion, more than double that of Mattel,” whose market cap is $5.3 billion. Hasbro also has not been entirely successful in pursuing media strategies, having “aborted its attempt at operating a television cable network in partnership with Discovery.”

Since the liquidation of its biggest customer, Toys R Us, Mattel has seen gross sales decrease by 10 percent in Q2. To combat the trend, it overhauled its management team, suspended its dividend and created a plan to cut $650 million in costs, all of which have failed to reignite sales. In July, the company made a 22 percent cut to its “global non-manufacturing workforce,” which pencils out to 2,200 jobs, and closed its New York office.