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Lionsgate Partners With Starbucks to Market, Distribute Film and DVD

12 Jan, 2006 By: Holly J. Wagner

Lionsgate has partnered with Starbucks Entertainment in a marketing and distribution deal for Lionsgate and 2929 Entertainment's film Akeelah and the Bee that will let baristas screen the movie before its April 28 theatrical release to create buzz and make the film's DVD the first available in Starbucks coffeehouses.

Starbucks executives have screened a number of films over the last year, chairman Howard Schultz said, in preparation to offer a handful of DVDs alongside the CDs selling in the chain's coffeehouses.

Lionsgate is an investor in Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's 2929 Entertainment venture, which has been making waves since it announced it would release movies simultaneously in theaters, on cable and on DVD.

“As the entertainment industry enters the digital marketplace, we are all looking at a new paradigm -- new alliances and distribution channels that transcend traditional filmed entertainment marketing,” said Lionsgate president Steve Beeks, who orchestrated the deal for Lionsgate with Lionsgate president of acquisitions and coproductions Peter Block and Lionsgate EVP, corporate operations and general counsel Wayne Levin. “With Starbucks unprecedented promotional campaign, we are reaching millions of customers and potential moviegoers for Akeelah, many of whom would not be targeted by more traditional media and print campaigns.”

The film stars Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and newcomer Keke Palmer in the story of Akeelah Anderson, a precocious 11-year-old girl who advances from the inner city of South Los Angeles to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, uniting her friends, neighbors and skeptical family.

The companies will offer “a large number” of North American Starbucks baristas the opportunity to screen the film before its release to create buzz, and Starbucks has agreed to promote the film in stores starting in early April with opportunities for sneak previews and trailers on its Wi-Fi network.

XM Satellite Radio will offer special programming on its Hear Music Channel 75, Starbucks will carry the soundtrack beginning April 4 and will carry the DVD when it's available later in 2006. Starbucks has gotten a lot of attention for successfully marketing CDs to its customers.

“Just as we have demonstrated with music, we believe that Starbucks can ultimately change the rules of the game for film marketing and distribution," said Schultz. Starbucks executives told The Wall Street Journal the chain would offer 20 or fewer DVD and CD titles at any one time.

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