Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Please DON'T See "Akeelah and the Bee"!

I saw a great movie this past weekend. Akeelah and the Bee, is about an gifted 11 year-old whom finds her way to the National Spelling Bee Championship. Along the way she finds that she has people in her corner who help her conquer her demons and want to see her succeed.

I liked the movie because it addressed a little known phenomenon in the African-American community in which academic achievement is considered a white people thing. There were several references to large and complicated words as being white words. Akeelah is torn between fitting in and reaching her true potential. I won’t give away the ending but let me provide a hint. It’s an inspirational story with a moral and a happy ending.

Even though I enjoyed the movie, the plot wasn’t the most interesting facet of Akeelah. What most interested me about the movie was the way in which it was marketed. You didn’t see the typical deluge of trailers and movie posters plastered every which where. Instead, what you saw were green and yellow neon coasters, coffee sleeves, and signs placed strategically around your local Starbucks [SBUX].

Long the number one purveyor of your favorite java concoction, Starbucks has been expanding its reach into other, seemingly unrelated businesses. The company has seen success in satellite radio, production and sales of CDs, and is now getting into the marketing of movies. Recognizing its power as a place where “communities meet” and “word-of-mouth” is created, Starbucks is making an effort in earnest to capitalize on that unique position.

As a frequent customer of Starbucks [Full disclosure: I’m currently drinking a caramel macchiato and writing this blog in a New Jersey based Starbucks. So I’m a little biased toward the company.] I’m all for the long-term success of the chain in these non-caffeinated aspects of its business. I emphasized long-term because I need this company to slip up somehow. The business is so excellent and execution so on point that the market has rarely priced the stock to a level where I felt comfortable buying it. [Click graph to view a larger image.]



Akeelah is a great movie. Critics (namely my favorites Ebert & Roeper) are already calling this movie an Oscar contender. Which is actually a little disappointing. I’m glad Starbucks and Ken Lombard, the head of Starbucks Entertainment, picked a great movie – one that falls right into line with their culture. I’m confident they will continue to pick great films. But can’t they mess up at least once so the market can depress the stock? I want to buy!

Maybe this weekend’s box-office is a good sign as Akeelah came in eigth-place. Well behind the critically unacclaimed [Two thumbs down from E&R] Robin Williams’ film RV. I hope this is the slip up I’ve been waiting for. As a value investor I wait for disappointing news that is temporary and then wait to see how the stock reacts. Akeelah is a great movie (and a great product) that I’m hopeful will not do well. This would be a perfect example of a good company with a temporary setback. If that happens let’s hope that the manic depressive market punishes the stock, and at that point I’ll probably be a buyer.

We’ll see what the stock does after today’s conference call.

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