White Castle lands title role in feature

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White Castle system, the privately held company from Columbus, Ohio, has carved out a quirky, distinctive niche in the fast-feeder category with a band of loyal-some say cultish-devotees. The company's mythology seems poised to expand as the brand is now the star of a New Line Cinema feature film to be released in July.

"Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" is a road comedy that chronicles the attempts of two stoner roommates who go out to satisfy their craving for White Castle hamburgers-affectionately referred to as "sliders" by many fans-but wind up on the "road trip from hell."

While White Castle licensed its brand name to the Time Warner-owned studio, the company doesn't have any ownership in the film. But it's so enthusiastic about it that it plans to promote the movie at retail with drink cups and may also throw spot radio support behind the film. Terms of the licensing deal were not disclosed.

"When we saw the script, we saw it as a love letter to White Castle. And while it may not quite be `Jason and the Argonauts,' it's heroic in every sense of the word," said Jamie Richardson, director-marketing, White Castle.

New Line approached White Castle 18 months ago with the screenplay, written by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. "From the get-go we saw this as something absolutely authentic. And it resonated in terms of the quest that the characters Harold and Kumar go on-basically the road trip from hell in their quest to satisfy their cravings for White Castle-is what we hear from thousands of customers each year," Mr. Richardson said.

The film was directed by Danny Leiner ("Dude, Where's My Car?") and stars John Cho ("American Pie" movies) and Kal Penn ("Van Wilder").


"New Line gave us a chance for us to share our perspective in terms of things that would resonate about the restaurant. They were open to a lot of our feedback, mostly technical things," Mr. Richardson said. "The last thing we wanted to do was impinge upon the creativity of the writers and their vision."

According to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, White Castle spent $12.3 million in 2003, most of it in spot TV and radio. WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Detroit is agency of record. Mr. Richardson said White Castle doesn't do national broadcast network TV buys because the core of its business is concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest.

The writers, the director and the stars were inducted recently into the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame, whose rolls include just 54 members. Mr. Richardson said only 30 stories have earned participants a place in the Hall out of 4,496 applicants. "The criteria is, to what lengths will someone go to satisfy their craving for White Castle. A lifelong commitment doesn't hurt. And if you have a tattoo with the White Castle logo, it almost always gets you on the shortlist."

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