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Obnoxious Product Placement: Harold & Kumar Shill For White Castle


Stoners revel in the majesty that is America's oldest burger joint.


It can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes after hitting a bong before you rediscover your insatiable hunger for Twinkies. It can take another 30 minutes to realize you're full. Like most side effects of smoking pot, the "munchies" are a delayed reaction.

This could explain why it took Harold and Kumar nearly the entire running time of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle to actually claim their 30 sliders, 5 order of fries and 4 large Cokes.

But the greatest delayed reaction of them all was White Castle's gratitude for the free advertising. After all, when the name of your brand finds its way into the title of a film, that's not just product placement - that's an advertising homerun. It would be like seeing a movie called Sam Sips Fresca, or We All Love Skittles, or Everyone Who Flies JetBlue Enjoys It Immensely.

Yet White Castle, America's oldest fast-food burger joint, is said to have been hesitant in allowing the film's producers to use its name. Apparently, establishing a connection between potheads and their merchandise wasn't entirely appetizing to White Castle's resident marketing kings and queens.

obnoxious It wasn't the company's first tussle with the entertainment industry.

In 1990, Susan Sarandon and James Spader starred in the romantic drama White Palace. The film, based on the novel of the same name, made reference to an actual White Castle restaurant in Saint Louis, and was originally slated to be called The White Castle. But the chain refused permission.

It took 14 years for White Castle executives to realize that product placement may not be such a bad thing after all. In 2004, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle was released nationwide. At first, the movie brought in a paltry $18 million (mere dime bags in Hollywood circles), but DVD sales of what is now considered a stoner classic earned over $60 million.

Why the delayed reaction in revenue?

''Pot movies don't do terribly well in theaters," said Super Troopers director Jay Chandrasekhar in Entertainment Weekly. "And yet on video they're wildly out of proportion to the theatrical gross.''

We can only guess at the reasons for the lag: Smokers are too lazy to get off the couch; smokers forget start times; smokers are too busy re-reading Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge. Who knows?

Still, the pot-smoking demographic is large - and companies who avoid marketing to them may be missing out. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.8 million Americans age 12 or older report using marijuana at least once a month. Users represent all income and education levels, and live in all corners of the nation.

Harold and Kumar's antics did well enough to warrant a sequel: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Unlike White Castle, the US Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which operates the detention facility, didn't have to grant permission - they got the free press whether or not they wanted it.

But it may not do much good: Due to complaints of torture and the violation of international law, much current sentiment tends toward closing Guantanamo Bay.

Just another delayed reaction.

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