Michael Barker said it was the longest speech he'd ever had to give at a movie premiere.
"With great appreciation," said the Sony Pictures Classics co-chief at the Arclight's Cinerama Dome on Thursday night in Hollywood, "we would like to thank POM Wonderful, Hyatt Hotels, Jet Blue, Sheetz, Ban deodorant, Merrell Footwear, Carrera, Amy's Kitchen, Seventh Generation, MovieTickets.com, the island of Aruba, and Mane 'n Tail."
He stopped, and took a breath.
"Also: Trident, Old Navy, Petland Discounts, Carmex, Ted Baker, Thayer's Natural Remedies, PRG and KDF."
The barrage of sponsors' names were also plastered all over the backdrop to the red carpet outside the Dome, and on the wrap draped over a small pony, and on the jacket worn by Morgan Spurlock, the director of "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," a documentary about product placement that the filmmaker refers to as a "DocBuster."
(Spurlock, left, and Barker; photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
The film, which opens on Friday, explores product placement in films though Spurlock's successful efforts to enlist sponsors to supply the entire $1.5 million budget. It's very funny if a little scattered (branching out well beyond product placement to examine advertising in general), with Spurlock shamelessly dropping plugs for shoes, beverages, frozen pizza and convenience stores into a film that shows him negotiating with those companies for their inclusion.
He's even upfront about how much it all costs: $25,000 for an entry-level mention, $50,000 to $100,000 for more substantial inclusion, and $1 million for the rights to be the film's branding sponsor, included in the title.
The beverage POM Wonderful took that slot – though Spurlock admitted that the company won't actually have to pay the full $1 million unless the movie is successful on a number of levels.
"It's a sliding scale, with a series of benchmarks we have to hit to get the full amount," Spurlock explained to TheWrap at the party that followed the premiere. "We already have 600,000 media impressions, which was the first one. Now we need to play in 250 theaters worldwide, which shouldn't be a problem. We need to gross $10 million worldwide, and I'm pretty confident about that. And then we need to 500,000 in DVD and VOD."
A pause. "We'll see."
Sony Classics' Barker said he didn't think the $10 million mark would be a problem. "Worldwide, it'll do it," he said at the afterparty. "And we could do it in the U.S. I think we'll be able to keep this in theaters for a while, and it'll get good word of mouth."
The party – "the greatest afterparty every thrown," Spurlock proclaimed – took place at the Supper Club on Hollywood Boulevard, a space transformed into a showcase for the movie's sponsors. Jet Blue flight attendants stood next to a row of seats from one of the carrier's airplanes, racks of Carrera sunglasses sat next to a banner calling them "the greatest sunglasses you'll ever wear," and sponsors' names were projected on the ceiling and walls.
Swag bags given out to departing guests included Old Navy t-shirts, Trident gum, Thayer's Dry Mouth Spray, Aruba keychains, bottles of POM Wonderful, Sheetz souvenir cups, Terra Blues potato chips, Ban deodorant, Mini temporary tattoos, and coupons for free Amy's Kitchen pizzas and discounts on Carrera sunglasses.
And by the time that OK Go played the movie's theme song, "The Greatest Song I Ever Heard," the filmmaker was standing on a banquette in the VIP area, throwing his arms in the air and dancing with abandon in his sponsor-emblazoned jacket.
"Look at that guy," laughed Michael Barker. "He is having the time of his life."
Spurlock might have been even happier if he had seen the scene an hour earlier, when his movie ended and premiere guests began filing out of the Arclight.
As a pair of women walked down the aisle, one unconsciously slipped into an impromptu sales pitch for one of the film's sponsors.
"Yeah, I always bring my daughter out here on Jet Blue," she told her friend. "They fly into Long Beach, which is more convenient than LAX, and they don't charge for the first bag."
Spurlock couldn't have scripted it any better.