A new low in "product placement"

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Rob Gardiner, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    This morning I visited New Line's website to complain about their annoying "Butterfly Effect" ads that now infect all the DVD websites.

    On their homepage, they are promoting an upcoming theatrical release: "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle". Apparently it is a teen comedy about two guys on their way to a fast food restaurant. [​IMG]

    Has there ever been such a blatant act of cinematic whoring? Is this the first time a film's corporate sponsor has been featured in the title of the film? The only other example I can think of is WILLY WONKA but I'm willing to give that a pass, since both the film and the book it was based on are absolutely delightful.

    Where will it ever end??? [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Sean Moon

    Sean Moon Cinematographer

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    I dont see it as whoring, seeing as how the legend of white castle burgers is. If it was HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WENDYS AND ORDER FROM THE SUPER VALUE MENU then yes, it is whoring. But White Castle and their burgers have an almost mythic quality to them, which adds to the comedy of the title and proposed movie. And isnt this an independant film as well?
     
  3. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Never heard of White castle.

    And what was product placement in Willy Wonka? Was there an actual Willy Wonka Chocolate factory before the book/movie?
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Was there a coporate sponsor for Breakfast at Tiffany's?

    Did a particular store sponsor Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean?

    Did a neighborhood association provide any backing for Sunset Boulevard?

    Did the local Chamber of Commerce back New York, New York?

    I have no idea how White Castle figures into the film's plot, but real places have often been used in films because they're part of the landscape and because many of them carry connotations that may play into the story. You won't really know until you see the film.

    M.
     
  5. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    MickeS,

    The supplements on the Willy Wonka DVD explain the situation: the film was financed by the Quaker Oats company (I believe) which was currently selling "Wonka" bars. They backed the film on the condition that the title be changed from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to "Willy Wonka and..."

    In any case, the candy bar disappeared soon afterwards but the film is now a classic.


    Michael,

    I haven't seen the film but the film's website features the burgers prominently and gives the impression that the purpose of the film is to sell more burgers. In fact, www.haroldandkumar.com and www.whitecastle.com look very similar and even feature some of the exact same images of the tasty burgers.

    Breakfast at Tiffany's also gets a pass, in my opinion, because it serves an artistic purpose. I haven't seen that film either but folks tell me it is considered a classic.




    I guess the best analogy would be the 80s TV cartoons that existed for the primary purpose of selling toys.
     
  6. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    "Has there ever been such a blatant act of cinematic whoring?"

    Ever see Mac and Me, an E.T. rip-off about an alien who loves to eat at McDonald's?

    In any case, I don't see this movie as "a blatant act of cinematic whoring" -- the movie is about two stoners who get lost trying to find a burger joint. White Castle predates the McDonald's food chain and in some regions of the country, it is part of American culture. Since there is no White Castle burger stands in many parts of America, it would seem odd to advertise a product many Americans can't buy.

    Besides, I hardly think White Castle executives approached New Line cinema and said: "We want to make a movie that advertises our product. How about creating a movie about two kids who are perpetually stoned, and they leave their dorm room to try to find a White Castle stand, but they're so wasted, they get lost! We think that would do wonders for our brand. Nothing says 'White Castle' like 'Drug Addicts'!"
     
  7. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Not really, from what I've seen in the trailer. It seems it is one of those, "its all about the journey, not the destination" films.

    I doubt that the movie was written primarily as a marketing tool for White Castle. It makes a good choice for a film, from its unique product, its mini-burgers, and the fact that it is only a regional chain.

    It also helps that White Castle is known outside the area as well.

    Now, does White Castle take this as a marketing opportunity? Of course, but I doubt it is the sole reason for this film getting made.

    Jason
     
  8. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Ernest,

    I had successfully repressed my memories of Mac and Me until you reminded me with your post. [​IMG] I agree, that is much worse.


    That is a good point.

    But visit both sites and tell me they don't look like calculated cross-promotion.

    Am I complaining too much? Am I just becoming bitter as I approach old age?
     
  9. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    White Castle burgers are absolute shit. The meat's full of holes ostensibly to make it cook faster (but really to give you less meat). The buns can't possibly hold all the grease they soak up. The cheese, if you order it, rarely comes melted. And the grill-jockeys almost never put the right condiments on them.

    But I can't stop eating them.
     
  10. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Considering that the film has "White Castle" in the title, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of the marketing opportunities, both ways.

    What I'm saying is that I don't think that was the whole point of this film, to be a commercial for White Castle. In fact, there is probably very little actual White Castle in the film, from what I gather from the trailer. It is your standard road trip film.

    Jason
     
  11. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    Tiffany's is not a nationwide chain, although they do have store in tonier enclaves.

    Sunset Boulevard is just a street. The neighbourhood association wouldn't have any say in someone using the name for a film. Lots of cities have Sunset streets.

    I may be wrong on this, but wasn't Five & Dime just a blanket catchphrase for all those old cheapo department stores - like Woolworth's, Kresge's and Ben Franklin - before the Dollar stores took over? Either way, by the time that film came out in 1982, any proper Five & Dime was probably a thing of the past.

    New York has turned up in many film titles, as have many other city names, state names, country names (including my own). Though many cities are incorporated, it rarely feels like cross-promotion when you see it in the film (even IF the city or town featured decided to capitlize on it).

    HAROLD & KUMAR is really one of the few exceptions where an actual corporate entity is featured so prominently in not only the logo of the film in question, but also in the style of all the advertising.
     
  12. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    Living in an area that doesn't have White Castle available, I too have heard them spoken of in almost mythic undertones and didn't bat an eye when I saw the preview and thought the concept (if not the execution) was quite amusing.
     
  13. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    Neither is White Castle.

    The film was originally titled something else. Not sure when or why they added the "White Castle" name.
     
  14. George See

    George See Second Unit

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    After seeing the trailer this weekend it appears the White Castle film serves a "a laugh your ass off purpose" which i guess on the whole is not as noble as an "artistic purpose" but i'll take a little humor where I can get it. And anyone who has ever been stoned or even been around people who were know how easily matters can turn to "lets go to (insert place here) to get some (insert food here). [​IMG]

    Seriously though the trailer didn't look like this was going to be just a big white castle commercial.
     
  15. Rob P S

    Rob P S Cinematographer

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    Unfortunately, yes. [​IMG]
     
  16. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Another movie that features McDonald's in annoyingly prominent fashion: Bye Bye Love

    I understand and accept that product placement and corporate tie-ins are a necessary evil in the realm of modern-day moviemaking, but one would hope they'd be a little less...mercenary with their tactics.

    Surprised nobody mentioned Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man or The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.
     
  17. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The NY Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would be very disappointed to hear you say that. [​IMG]

    M.
     
  18. Michael St. Clair

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    I admire White Castle to have the balls to have their name on a film about two stoners, one of whom is wearing a T-shirt that says "I love BUSH - the pussy, not the president".

    McDonalds or Wendys wouldn't touch this movie with a 10-foot-pole out of fear of backlash from the Political Correctness police.
     
  19. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

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    I wasn't really arguing this in any of my posts, but it's a solid point. HAROLD & KUMAR just happened to provide a good opportunity for cross promotion although it's still unusual to feature the actual name of a contemporary corporation so prominently in the title of a film. At the same time, I gotta say "more power to 'em."

    I think a more important discussion would be the reinforcement of the marginalization of ethnic minority actors perpetuated by the trailer for this film, to wit:

    "New Line Cinema presents that Asian guy from American Pie. And that Indian guy from Van Wilder."

    Then they justify all the race gags (from the looks of it designed to make the audience feel superior to the racist characters in the film while at the same time laughing at juvenile racist Asian and Indian jokes) by proclaiming:

    "From that white guy who directed Dude, Where's My Car."

    Sigh.
     
  20. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    A movie that DEMANDS a DVD release. Maybe the most unintentionally funny film I've ever seen.
     

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