- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

SEATTLE (AP) — Starbucks Corp. is moving into the movie-promotion business, partnering with the film studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. to market the upcoming film “Akeelah and the Bee.”

The agreement marks the first film deal for Starbucks, which has been percolating into the entertainment industry by distributing music at many of its more than 10,000 coffee shops worldwide.

Beginning in early April, Starbucks employees, who get a sneak peek at the film, will wear lanyards with “Akeelah” buzz words in the hope of sparking conversations about the movie, billed as the story of an 11-year-old girl from inner-city Los Angeles who makes it to a national spelling bee.

The Seattle coffee chain will sell the movie’s soundtrack beginning April 4 and the DVD when it comes out later this year, though executives said yesterday the idea is less about hawking movie products than boosting sales at the box office.

Neither company disclosed financial terms.

Starbucks executives spoke with virtually every movie studio in Hollywood, eventually picking Lions Gate and “Akeelah” because the company felt they were the right fit for its customers, said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks’ entertainment division.

Harold Vogel, a media analyst with Vogel Capital Management in New York, said businesses that cross-promote major motion pictures probably rake in $40 million to $50 million per film. “In this case, I’d doubt it’s that much,” he said. “I’m guessing $10 million.”

He said it’s a low-risk move for Starbucks, noting that McDonald’s Corp., Burger King and the movies they have helped promote have typically done well.

“Occasionally it has no impact, but that’s about the downside of it, unless it affects your image,” Mr. Vogel said. “Both parties benefit from this, or else they wouldn’t do it.”

“Akeelah,” which stars Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and young Keke Palmer, opens April 28 in more than 2,000 theaters.

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