Coffee giant looks to heat up eco docu

Hollywood was ecstatic last year when Starbucks said it would start promoting movies through its retail outlets.

But execs around town scratched their heads when Starbucks’ support for Lionsgate drama “Akeelah and the Bee” did little to help the pic at the box office.

The Seattle-based coffee giant is now giving pic promotions another try and using lessons it learned from “Akeelah” to push “Arctic Tale,” a Paramount Classics and National Geographic Films documentary that rolls out July 25 and heads into a wide release Aug. 17.

Starbucks will collect a percentage of the pic’s profits in return for its involvement.

“It is a collaboration,” said Ken Lombard, prexy of Starbucks Entertainment. “We will benefit from the success of the film at the box office.”

“Arctic Tale,” helmed by Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson, follows the lives of a walrus and a polar bear from birth to maturity in the frozen Arctic wilderness that’s melting away from beneath them.

Queen Latifah narrates the pic, that is being distribbed under the Classics label, a division of Paramount Vantage. The soundtrack features such artists as Ben Harper, Aimee Mann and the Shins, which fits well with Starbucks’ initiatives through its Hear Music brand.

The film’s environmental message also appealed to Starbucks (Vantage distribbed last year’s “An Inconvenient Truth”).

“First and foremost, it’s an extraordinary film,” Lombard said.

Starbucks has been working to promote itself as an environmentally conscious company. In April, it partnered with Global Green USA to launch the “Planet Green Game” online to educate consumers about climate change.

“Starbucks has had a long and significant commitment to communities and the environment, and by highlighting ‘Arctic Tale’ to our customers, we can spark discussion on this issue and impact change, all from right inside our stores,” Lombard said.

Deal for “Arctic” is similar to the one Starbucks inked with Lionsgate for “Akeelah and the Bee,” in that the coffee chain is offering up in-store and event promotions of the film’s theatrical release, DVD and soundtrack, and not investing in the pic’s production.

Starbucks will feature signage in more than 6,800 stores in the U.S. and Canada from July 31-Aug. 27. It operates more than 13,000 stores worldwide.

Starbucks’ campaign aims to raise awareness for “Arctic,” as well as educate customers on the climate crisis and solutions they can adopt to help slow the effects of global warming.

Effort includes a “National Day of Discussion” on Aug. 15. That event will be held in Starbucks stores in U.S. cities including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C., and feature speakers from environmental orgs such as the Climate Group, Conservation Intl., Earth Watch and Global Green USA.

Despite the marketing muscle Starbucks put behind “Akeelah” last year, that pic ended up earning just shy of $19 million, surprising industryites — and Starbucks.

Although the company did collect an undisclosed amount from the pic’s eventual backend (it cost around $8 million to produce), Starbucks execs said they analyzed why the “Akeelah” promotion didn’t pay off and adapted those lessons for “Arctic.”

“The campaign was built around the spelling bee,” Lombard said. “We weren’t as clear as we could have been or should have been that it’s a film we would love for our customers to go see.”

Starbucks has been relying on the William Morris Agency to help identify films the company should help market.

It’s been attracted to pics with a message or low-profile projects that fit the brand and would benefit from additional marketing support.

“The whole idea of discovery is important to our customers,” Lombard said, “and we really have a commitment to our customers in the selection process.”

Par Vantage prexy John Lesher touted the benefits of Starbucks getting behind the pic.

Starbucks has “the ability to reach millions of people in a single morning, ensuring that the message behind ‘Arctic Tale’ will resonate well beyond the theater,” Lesher said.

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