"To market, to market"

A Newbery medal-winning children's story making its way to the big screen could have an impact at a supermarket near you. Southeastern grocery chain Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., is featured as the namesake of the book – and movie – Because of Winn-Dixie and is sharing its role as a movie star with its customers through a shopping rewards program and book donations throughout its operating areas.
– Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., press release, Jan. 13, 2005

FROM: Irwin R. Scheiss, Chief of Production
TO: Sheldon Molotov, Vice President of Creative Development


Seen your e-mail today? Mine brought a very interesting piece of correspondence from some supermarket chain down in swampland. Looks like they've got their very own picture to push, the cute little redneck bastards.

I admit it, I shoulda seen this one coming. Ovitz called me months ago to give me the heads-up. But all he said was, "Have you seen what the Beef People are up to?", so I naturally assumed he was trying to get that whole gay-Mafia thing going again.

Anyway, to make up for lost time, I think what we ought to do is cook up some projects of our own – from scratch – that have surefire store-promotion angles to work. I'm talking built-in cross-marketing here, Shel. If we cultivate a relationship with the stores in question before we bring in the farkuckt writing team, we don't have to wait until some moonlighting fifth-grade schoolteacher throws us a book to adapt. (And wants to get paid for it, the brazen whore!) Plus, we can make sure that our promotional partner is referenced directly and often – not as the name of some damn dog or something.

Here's a short list of story ideas I whipped up. Tell me how you feel about:

I Am Sam's Club – If there's anything an audience loves, Shelley, it's feeling welcomed into one group while looking down its nose at another. This old-school tear-jerker will remind America's discount shoppers that they may not get invited to tea at Buckingham Palace every day of the week, but they're still a step up from retards. Oh, we'll definitely make it look like we're on the dummies' side – how else could anybody interpret the story of a dim-bulb dad who tries to get custody of his completely normal kid, only for a tenderhearted judge to award him volume-buying privileges on Rice Krispies treats in the bargain? But you and I know that Joe and Betty Barcalounger will really be thinking, "I'd rather have a metric ton of Jif in my garage than go around talking like Rain Man after six mudslides." And that's a moviegoing experience that's worth its weight in economy-size Cheer.

7-Eleven Can Wait – Tell me how this grabs you, Shel. Beatty comes back to Earth, but instead of going back to his life as a football star, he has to work the night shift at a convenience store. How come? Hell, I don't know. Maybe he's doing penance for Town & Country. It's not important. What counts is the massive scratch-off promotion we're going to have in the stores, where the buyer of every extra-large Slurpee gets a game piece and the winner gets to schtup Annette Bening. Or maybe not. I saw that Julia picture, and the broad has crow's-feet wide and deep enough to hide a laser pointer in.

BurDiner – My kid in college always wants to know when Levinson is going to shoot a sequel to Diner. God knows why: I need to listen to the problems of a bunch of Jersey schlemiels like I need another hole in my ass. But if we can convince Mr. I Only Make Art to move the action from a diner to the returns counter at a Southern department store, then we might have a picture with enough appeal below the Mason-Dixon line to get those Winn-Dixiecrats running scared. (Hold on, Shel, I've got the missus on the wire, and she says Burdines is bye-bye. Seems our friends with the gun racks are getting stores with real names for a change, G-D bless 'em. Time to shift gears: Can we find out what's on Bill Macy's plate for the next few months?)

Best Buy's Little Whorehouse in Texas – On second thought, better make it Nevada. And throw in a gift card every time somebody springs for around-the-world.

The Burning Bed, Bath & Beyond – Oh, the ladies are going to love this one, Shelley. And it's going to allow us to correct the one main flaw my wife found in that TV movie from '84: If you're going to douse your hubby in gasoline and light him up, you don't do it on top of the perfectly good bedclothes you just took out of the dryer. (I can still hear Mrs. Scheiss screaming at the set, "Not the 400 thread count! Not the 400 thread count!") In our version, the desperate dame torches her fella in the backyard – like any sane, normal person would – then goes inside to get a good night of uninterrupted sleep on the finest goosedown. Of course, we'd want to get Farrah back, if we could. Ask her agent if her doctor says her "vacation" is over yet.

Now, keep in mind that these are just some thumbnail sketches. With a little bit of team effort, the two of us could probably come up with something even better. While I was writing this memo, in fact, I started getting an idea for a picture where the story itself could center on a big store. I mean a really big one – one our audience would recognize when we named it over and over again. Maybe we can set the action at Christmastime, so we have the excuse to show characters shopping, shopping, shopping. Our lead character could be a store Santa who claims to be the real thing, winning over a little girl who's adorably slow to believe. Everybody will think it's a story about the value of childhood faith, but it'll really be an extended commercial for whatever retail outlet ponies up the most dough for nonstop product placement.

Nah … the FTC would never let us get away with it.


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