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Hasbro finds success in the movie universe

Back in 2007, when people were still impressed by special effects, a little diddy came out named “Transformers.” Your favorite childhood robot-car-action-figure-things — who were sometimes also dinosaurs, because people buy dinosaurs and cars — mixed with the spastic skill of Michael Bay and pre-breakdown Shia LaBeouf resulted in a cool $709.7 million theatrical run, three sequels and an obnoxious amount of sexist filmmaking.

If you think the idea of giant shape-shifting robots blowing things up has been milked for all it’s worth, parent company Hasbro wants you to know you thought wrong.

“Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fourth title in the franchise, hits theatres in June, with a theme of, yes, medieval knights. These alien-robot-car-dinosaur-knights have somehow managed to rake in more than $3.7 billion worldwide and counting, and while Transformers definitely aren’t the most critically-adored cinematic characters out there, they do know how to make a buck or two.

Content-wise, the films don’t do much to satisfy any need for higher level thinking. The explosions, effects and exploited female actresses are what draw audiences into theatres, which is honestly an impressive feat considering so many consumers are opting to “Netflix ‘n Chill” rather than hike out to a movie theater.

Hasbro, the mastermind behind the integrated success that is Transformers, is onto something here. While the transformation of toys into visual entertainment is not something new, Hasbro has worked out the kinks to turn their properties into profit monsters. They have a massive number of brands to choose from — My Little Pony to G.I. Joe to Ouija boards — and each new film or television show made from them sells more and more toys.

If a produced title is successful enough, the cross-marketing of movies and merchandise under the same company — as opposed to say, Disney splitting film toy profits with Hasbro as the manufacturer — can be monumental. While their revenues aren’t public information, the fact that stock in Hasbro has risen nearly 30 percent this past year offers proof of how successful its business model has been.

In an attempt to cut out the middleman and further capitalize on the innocent consumers of America, Hasbro created their own self-financing label, Allspark Pictures. By taking a more active role in producing films for their intellectual property — as opposed to partnering with other studios — Hasbro can have greater creative control and a monopoly on profits.

Allspark’s first fully financed feature, “My Little Pony: The Movie” rears its glittery mane into theatres Oct. 6, and there’s plenty more on the lineup from there. Pulling ideas from the financial successes of the DC Comics and Marvel cinematic universes, Hasbro wants to hop on the bandwagon. The Hasbro cinematic universe will incorporate characters from their ROM, Micronauts, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light and M.A.S.K. properties, as well as an updated G.I. Joe character.

Cinematic universes are ambitious plans, where several committed projects are needed to make an impression to audiences. Whether Hasbro can pull it off or not remains to be seen.

“Toy companies probably have no more likelihood of succeeding at making a profitable movie than anybody else. It’s still risky and expensive,” said Sean McGowan, managing director at Liolios Group, an investor relations company, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

However, the risk has paid off for Hasbro lately. And just in case you needed more shape-shifting-alien-robots in your life, there’s already a “Transformers” five, six and seven in the works.

Lilly Stuecklen is a junior television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @Stuecks or by email at lsstueck@syr.edu.

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