New York/Los Angeles — The warning signs for the toy industry started last year when the movie Cars 3 — considered a surefire success — proved lacklustre for licensees like Mattel. Now toy makers’ big bets on movie tie-ins look downright bleak. Playthings based on the Star Wars saga — the franchise that kicked off the whole phenomenon four decades ago — were down in 2017 despite a new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in December during the all-important holiday-shopping season. Call it Star Wars burnout, or better yet "movie fatigue", said Gerrick Johnson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets. Hollywood and toy makers have fixated on toy-friendly films at a time when kids are increasingly turning to YouTube, Netflix and social media for entertainment. More than 20 major films, including The Last Jedi, had robust toy-licensing programmes last year. A decade ago, it was about half that. Movie attendance in the US has dropped almost 14% in that span. "There are so many screens now; kids a...

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