Source: MGM

This year, had Licensing Expo gone on as planned in Las Vegas, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios would have had a booth for the first time in 10 years.

“We paid for it, we designed it, all that stuff,” says Robert Marick, MGM’s executive vice president of global consumer products and experiences. “Fate had other plans for us.”

Instead of putting off their planned presentation, the MGM team decided to take a new approach that made more logistical sense in light of the COVID-19 pandemic: a virtual summit, held this week (June 15-17). The summit, Marick says, gives him a chance to tell brand partners about what MGM Studios is working on, and what licensing opportunities are available.

During the presentation, the MGM Studios team will touch on a variety of new initiatives, with a major focus on the studio’s catalog of classic titles. “I think one of the things we were able to learn from COVID is that consumers in general really are looking for comfort and comfort brands, something they grew up with,” Marick says. 

That catalog includes a variety of more than 4,000 movies and more than 17,000 television shows, which the studio is revisiting by genre, anniversary, decade, and by trademark. As Marick likes to say, “MGM Means Great Movies.”

Horror Funko Pop! figures based on MGM characters. Source: MGM

This fall, the studio is focused on horror as a genre, led by the release of Candy Man in theaters this September. MGM’s horror catalog also includes titles such as Amityville Horror, Killer Clowns, Silence of the Lambs, and Jeepers Creepers.

Then, next year, the studio is celebrating a handful of major anniversaries that will have accompanying consumer product and experience programs, including Carrie’s 45th anniversary, Fiddler on the Roof’s 50th anniversary, Rocky’s 45th anniversary, and Legally Blondes 20th anniversary. MGM is especially focused on the final two, Rocky and Legally Blonde

“[Rocky] is a property that seems really appropriate right now because it stands for courage, determination, and optimism,” Marick says. “With new assets in the queue, we’re really looking to just take everyday people and really have them train like a champion, look like a champion, and then experience like a champion.” Fans and partners can expect to see this across gaming, merchandise, and experiences.

A licensed Rocky sweatshirt | Source: MGM

All the Elle Woods fans out there can get excited, too, because MGM is also leaning in heavily on the Legally Blonde brand. Not only does the original Legally Blonde turn 20 next year — MGM has planned a year of events, which will lead to a “Legally Blonde Turns 21” celebration — but Legally Blonde 3 is also in development, with Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor attached to write the script.

The other major highlights of the summit include updates on the Addams Family, which Marick says has become a perennial favorite, and the Vikings Valhalla merchandising program. 

Finally, the summit will include the Pink Panther brand, which has seen significant growth over the past year due to new collaborations. (And, in case you missed it, Pink Panther just got a major refresh with a new Pantone pink shade!)

Source: MGM

For these and all of the MGM brands, Marick says he is looking for a variety of licensing partners, but with a big focus on in-game integrations and location-based entertainment. The team already has high-concept designs for a Pink Panther kiosk and a Pink Panther cafe, which MGM is seeking partners for. 

Also, the studio is exploring new consumer product opportunities presented by the pandemic, such as at-home fitness, masks, and personal hygiene.

In terms of the summit itself, MGM is presenting its plans and show trailers in a condensed format that lasts about 75 minutes. “We’re going to have a little fun with it. We’re gonna pretend it’s taking place in Vegas,” Marick says. 

RELATED: LICENSING EXPO TAKES A VACATION UNTIL 2021

The studio invited agents, licensees, and retailers from around the world, and more than 300 signed up to attend. While this virtual platform is new territory for the studio — and the industry — Marick says he sees a lot of benefits. For example, the team was able to customize the presentation for Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Also, he says, those who aren’t able to watch the presentation live can watch a taped version and fast forward through the properties that aren’t applicable. Plus, the cost is lower than in-person events.

“Whenever we get back to the new normal, whenever that is, this platform that we’re doing, these virtual summits, will continue,” Marick predicts. “In fact, I believe that this will allow us more regular interaction that we can customize by territory and by region, in addition to attending a licensing show. That personal touch is so important, and I don’t want to dismiss that at all. This, to me, is just an additional layer.”