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Who would’ve thought there was a direct correlation between a 100-day Hollywood writers’ strike in the winter of 2007-8 and the kids’ birthday partyware offering in the summer of 2009? Well there was, and it was significant.

Live action and animated theatrical projects often have two- to three-year development cycles. When this strike took place, multiple major projects had their market release dates either pulled up or pushed out, creating a hole in the entertainment content pipeline. This hole came into play in the summer of 2009 when the theatrical movie line-up, especially for kid-targeted property events, wasn’t nearly as robust as we’ve seen in recent years.

Kids determine their party themes, and their choices are highly influenced by the marketplace. Therefore, less exciting new kids’ movie content from Hollywood directly translates into less exciting new kids’ birthday category news.

But what’s in store for 2010? The good news is that next year is, once again, loaded with the sort of major kids property movie events we’ve come to expect. It’s a whole new ballgame. So, let’s take a chronological look at the batting order of upcoming major movie events that should deliver the big hits in 2010.

Batting lead-off is Marvel Comic’s “Iron Man 2,” which has a theatrical release date of May 7. This sequel to the surprise 2008 blockbuster film “Iron Man” starring Robert Downey Jr. immediately became the second highest grossing single Marvel super hero film after the Spider-Man series. And, for those of you questioning if “Iron Man” is just another in-and-out movie property, don’t worry. “Iron Man 2” will directly lead into the 2011 movie events, “Thor” and “The First Avenger: Captain America”. All three of these films will then lead into the ultimate super hero movie team-up, “The Avengers” in 2012. You can already hear all the 7 year old boys say, “cool!”

In the on-deck circle is Dreamworks’ “Shrek Forever After,” which hits theatres May 21. This is the fourth installment in the popular series about the adventures of everybody’s favorite green ogre, Shrek. Look for more laughs from the screen and smiles around party tables as the misadventures of Shrek continue.

The next movie isn’t about an 800-pound gorilla, but that is exactly what this property will be in the party category come the summer of 2010. Yes, the toys are back. Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” will open in theatres June 18. Talk about your clean-up hitters. It’s been 11 long years — “Toy Story 2” in 1999 — since we last left the adventures of Buzz, Woody, Jesse, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Ham, Bullseye and the rest of the crew. So, what are Andy’s favorite toys up to? Well, for starters, after Andy heads to college, Andy’s mom accidentally ships the toys off to a day care facility. Will Buzz save the day? Will Woody save the day? Will both Buzz & Woody save the day? Will “Toy Story 3” save your 2010 party sales?

You bet your bootstraps, pardner!

Look for retail rings that go to infinity and beyond.

What’s missing to complete this all-star roster? Of course, we need vampires. Summit Entertainment’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” the third installment in the popular Twilight series, takes a bite out of the box office June 30. Why does this property make sense?

First, it clearly skews older and grabs that tween/teenage girl audience. And, the occasion usage broadens as well as those girls might not only have Twilight birthday parties, but Twilight DVD viewing parties, Twilight slumber parties, etc. Lastly, don’t forget the older girl in the classic kids birthday party target range (8 to 10 years old). She’s going to like Twilight because she knows her older sisters, older girls in school, and older girls in neighborhood all love it.

That concludes the major summer movie events, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention three films coming out in Holiday 2010 that should drive strong fourth quarter party sales. First, Dreamworks’ “Oobermind,” a CGI animated story of what befalls a super villain after he actually defeats his super hero foe, opens Nov. 5.

Just before Thanksgiving, the sixth installment in the hugely popular live action Harry Potter film series, “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” will release. This movie brings the epic tale of Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron, and their battles versus evil Lord Voldemort to dramatic conclusion. As you can see from the title, this is part one of a two-part finale, so look forward to an exciting cliffhanger that will help carry Harry Potter momentum on through 2011.

Lastly, on Dec. 1, Disney’s “Rapunzel,” an animated version of the classic fairy tale, comes to theatres. This telling twists the legend around a bit as our beautiful trapped-in-a-tower princess with the 70-foot long golden hair is nobody’s damsel in distress.

A super hero movie, the last of the Harry Potter saga and a Disney princess fairy tale complete an incredibly strong
line-up that should keep on scoring through 2011.

But it starts in 2010 when we can put the challenges we’ve faced due to the writer’s strike firmly behind us. Just as spring signals the start to a new baseball season, spring in 2010 will signal start of an exciting new year in party. And, just like “Spider-Man” and “Cars” in years past, “Iron Man 2” and “Toy Story 3” should be the big hitters on a literal all-star team of new properties that’ll be coming to your party aisles.

When people talk about “remember in 2010, when ... ” make sure your memories are all about the strong party sales you delivered. So, don’t miss out. Get these hot properties front and center on very visible display to make certain you hit a home run with your customers.

Originally posted Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009