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Thursday July 26 2:37 AM ET
from Yahoo Daily News

''Planet of the Apes'' unveils "collectible'' toys

By Rina Chandran

NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - The gorillas of ``Planet of the Apes'' could trounce the ``Jurassic Park III'' dinosaurs at box offices this weekend, but the movie's toy spin offs may not follow suit.

Wednesday, Hasbro Inc., the United States' No. 2 toymaker with Tonka trucks, the Scrabble board game and G.I. Joe action dolls in its cupboard, unveiled only five 12-inch figures based on the characters of Leo, Attar, Daena, Ari and Limbo.

But the toys are meant for a smaller ``collectibles'' market compared to the masses of children who flock to retail shelves for toys from films like computer animated ``Shrek.'' Moreover, the stock of summer films in recent years has diminished the value of promotional tie-ins, industry experts said.

``It's an all-new line targeted at an older audience,'' said Deron Ellis, director of marketing for ``Planet of the Apes'' at Hasbro. ``This line is all about collectibility -- the figures are all collectors' items.''

Science Fiction thriller ``Planet of the Apes,'' which gets its story from a novel by Pierre Boulle and the 1968 classic film of the same name, tells of an astronaut (Mark Wahlberg) who lands on a planet inhabited by apes that hunt humans.

Toys from the movie, which opens around the country Friday and is one of this summer's most anticipated films, are aimed at older buyers who will likely see the PG-13 rated movie, as well as fans of the series of ``Planet of the Apes'' movies during the 1960s and 1970s that preceded this current version.

``Action figures have become more the collector's business rather than the children's business,'' said Marty Brochstein, executive editor of The Licensing Letter, a trade publication for licensed merchandise. ``And the collectors' business is smaller than the children's business.

Hasbro also faces the problem that spending on the toys could take second place to more essential items in a family's back-to-school budget. Couple that with reduced consumer spending due to the weak economy, and it adds up to possibly fewer toys flying off retail shelves.

Still, Twentieth Century Fox, the movie studio behind ''Apes,'' has high hopes that it will become the kind of blockbuster that rakes in big bucks at the box office and spurs sales of ancillary products.

``The film has a huge awareness and a huge following of older fans, plus younger fans of (director) Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg,'' said Jennifer Robinson (news - external web site), vice president of Fox Licensing and Merchandising.

With that in mind Fox, a unit of News Corp. Ltd., has licensed out the ``Apes'' name for a number of consumer products including apparel, lunch boxes, cookie jars, trading cards and comic books. The studio has tie-ins with shoemaker Reebok International Ltd. and PC maker Intel Corp., and is relying on the film's ``cross-generational'' appeal to spur demand for products.

But if the movie fails to open to a big box office number this weekend, Hasbro, Fox and the other makers could be in for trouble, because the life cycle of consumer products based on movies is shrinking.

``Retailers have been very skittish about stocking film merchandise because there are so many films and products out there,'' said Brochstein. ``In most cases, the active selling time is about 4-6 weeks, unless you have a very successful movie.'' DreamWorks' ``Shrek'', for instance, is the summer's top grossing film with box office receipts well over $230 million.

Beyond that, kids still have the ``Harry Potter (news - web sites)'' movie and computer animated ``Monsters, Inc.'' coming up in the next few months.

Hasbro, too, will make toys for ``Monsters'' and is hoping those sales, which will target a wider audience, coupled with the niche-oriented strategy for ``Apes'' will help it recover from 2000, which it has said was its ``worst year'' ever.

Reuters/Variety REUTERS