NEWS

Monday 30th March: Latest toy industry reaction to coronavirus outbreak

Published on: 30th March 2020

Our Monday roundup includes another movie delay, plus news from Mattel, Zuru, Big Potato and more.

The new Scooby Doo movie, Scoob!, has been taken off the release schedule by Warner Bros. The animated reboot was due to open on 15th May and does not yet have a confirmed rescheduled release date.

As studios grapple with the decision whether to delay theatrical movie releases or to offer them as an on-demand streaming option, the Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult has conducted a poll to find out how much US audiences would be willing to pay in order to download a new film. The survey was carried out among a sample of 2,200 adults, and findings suggest that a cost of $5 to $8 would be deemed acceptable. 40% of those surveyed said they’d be more likely to rent movies at home now, but 35% replied that they’d be less likely to do so.

Some 30% of respondents in the survey said they’d be more likely to subscribe to a paid film and TV streaming service like Netflix or Hulu now, while 35% thought they’d be less likely to do so. Younger adults, ages 18-29, said they were more likely to sign up for a service, but older age groups said they were less likely to subscribe.

In China, over 600 cinema venues had begun to reopen but have already been ordered to close again by the government, which is concerned about a second wave of virus infections.

Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. plans to furlough more than 90% of its US workforce. The employees have been told they will receive medical, dental and vision benefits, but will not receive “direct compensation.” Other staff will see a pay cut. Base salaries for all executive officers will be cut by 20% and annual cash retainers for non-employee directors will be eliminated in the fiscal first quarter.

Build-A-Bear stores in the US, UK, Ireland, Denmark and Canada will remain closed until further notice, while the company’s Ohio warehouse is closed until workplace safety measures have been reviewed.

Ramping up the company’s contribution to providing aid, Mattel’s design and development teams in the US are producing face masks from Barbie and Fisher-Price fabric to help meet demand. The company is also prototyping personal protective equipment such as face shields for use by healthcare professionals. President and COO Richard Dickson commented: “I am inspired by our people at Mattel, as well as the amazing contributions from the toy industry and companies all over the world.”

Zuru is another of the latest toy companies to offer support during the crisis, with its China team mobilised to produce masks, gowns, visors and sanitiser for health workers and essential businesses in New Zealand and Australia. The company is also working with the Salvation Army/ Food Bank Project to help provide food boxes to vulnerable familes; for each foodpack donated by the public, Zuru will match it. Anna Mowbray, director and COO said: “To say I’m proud of our team right now is an understatement. To all of those who have lost jobs or are, anxious, in pain and struggling, please keep your heads up. Combined as a kiwi team we will get through this and we will bounce back.”

The Orb Factory, parent company of Orb Toys, has switched production to provide a range of disinfecting cleaning products called Cyber Clean. President and partner Michael Bianco commented: “We have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely to see how Orb could best contribute. We chose to quickly partner with our overseas supplier to convert as many of our production facilities as we could from play compounds and putties to anti-bacterial compounds and sanitizers. We have an opportunity and an obligation to do whatever we can to help ease the burden experienced by our global citizens.”

To amuse those stuck at home, Big Potato has released a free digital version of its Mr Lister game, based on a title from the company’s back catalogue. The download of the quick-fire party trivia game is available on the Big Potato website. Mr Lister himself commented: “The sheriff tells me that you’re all having to stay at home because of some lowdown, good-for-nothing bug. Just click the link to download all the cards for a rootin’ tootin’ game with your folks.”

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