Movie and TV Character Licensing Revenues Hit $49.3B in 2012

"The Avengers," "Dark Knight" among titles that contributed to an increase over last year's profits

"The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," "SpongeBob SquarePants" and other films and TV shows geared at children and teenagers helped sales of character-related merchandise in the entertainment space grow by 2.8 percent last year to $49.3 billion, according to a new study by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. (LIMA).

The annual survey also found that royalty revenue from television, video game and movie merchandising and licensing accounted for $49.3 billion in retail sales last year.

It's a sign that merchandising is recovering along with the overall economy, LIMA senior vice president Martin Brochstein said.

"This was a good year for the business," he said. "It's the second year in a row where things are moving northward again. People are feeling like they can spend money again."

Indeed, the numbers are a marked improvement from a low of $45.9 billion in 2010 when the world was still mired in recession. However, it did not match the peak of $52.4 billion that entertainment-related merchandising contributed in 2007 when financial markets were still booming.

LIMA has been conducting its study since 2002.