After a year-long search for the perfect film to make its entry into the movie-distribution business, Starbucks chose "Akeelah," a drama centered on an inner-city girl trying to compete in the National Spelling Bee. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, and 13 year-old Keke Palmer, the family-friendly film is written and directed by indie filmmaker Doug Atchison, whose screenplay for "Akeelah" won him the Academy’s coveted Nicholl Fellowship back in 2000.
According to Reuters, Lion’s Gate typically spends up to $20 million to market its films; with the unspecified contribution from Starbucks, it shouldn’t be difficult for the corporate partners to cover the paltry $10 million production budget of "Akeelah."
For all you Starbucks addicts who’ve just grown accustomed to the stylishly packaged CDs crowding counters in their retail shops, its XM-radio Hear Music radio station, and the custom hipster playlists heard at each Starbucks round the world, this means an even bigger cross-promotional barrage is in store every time you crave a grande non-fat latte. The "Akeelah" promotions are to include flash-card beverage sleeves (ok, so we’ll learn how to spell better), movie trailer pop-ups for Starbucks wi-fi users (light entertainment for your afternoon coffee break), and free screenings for Starbucks employees (some amateur film criticism to go with your conscientiously-harvested Sumatra blend). Of course, Starbucks will also offer the "Akeelah" soundtrack on CD and, later, the movie on DVD.
The chain, who’s CEO Howard Schultz also sits on the board of DreamWorks Animation SKG, hopes their "Akeelah" venture will launch many more film distribution deals to come. In return for their marketing efforts, Starbucks will receive an undisclosed percentage of the film’s entire revenue.
"Akeelah and the Bee" will be released April 28, 2006, and will arrive at your local Starbucks much, much sooner.