Opening strong this past weekend, and as we just noted, now looking like a potential Oscar player, things are going very well for Paramount and “Flight,” but there could be some turbulence ahead. As you know, Denzel Washington plays a booze-soaked pilot who manages the heroic feat of landing a doomed flight. However, one of the companies that’s seen in his liquor cabinet is asking to be taken out of the movie.
Anheuser-Busch is requesting that Paramount Pictures “obscure or remove” the Budweiser logo from “Flight.” Of course, Paramount doesn’t have to comply, as filmmakers don’t have to get permission to feature products in their films. And while product placment is routine in Hollywood movies, it’s easy to see why Robert Zemeckis and Co. didn’t bother giving the booze makers a heads-up (“Hey guys, we’re making a movie about an alcoholic, want a six pack in there?!”). But the Budweiser brewers aren’t the only ones furrowing their brow; the dudes over at William Grant & Sons are not pleased that Stolichnaya is in the movie either.
There are two ways to look at this: on the one hand, the brewmakers are claiming that the inclusion of their brands somehow will lead people to believe they condone reckless consumption of their beverages, when of course, they want everyone to “drink responsibly.” One the other hand, these guys also spend millions upon millions of dollars per year making sure people buy more, particularly young people. So there is a bit of hypocrisy and crying wolf in their complaints.
However, would “Flight” be less effective if you didn’t know what Whip Whitaker likes to get sauced on? Hardly. It’s not about what he drinks, it’s about the addiction in general. So whether he’s knocking back Budweiser or Fudd, it probably doesn’t make a difference.
In short, it will be expensive for Paramount comply with the request to fix all existing prints, so some kind of compromise might be reached (maybe all future prints and the home video release will be scrubbed). Or they might just ignore the complaint entirely — but that could mean that next time the studio does need Budweiser, they won’t be so eager to agree. [AP]