The Marketplace Report: 'Sith' Burger King Promotion

Madeleine Brand talks to Bob Moon of Marketplace about an advocacy group that's trying to dissuade Burger King from selling its Revenge of the Sith-themed kid's meals because of the film's PG-13 rating. The Dove Foundation fought a similar campaign 13 years ago when it pressured McDonald's to drop Batman Returns Happy Meals.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Is is appropriate for Burger King to be promoting the new "Star Wars" movie on its Kids Meals? That's what an entertainment watchdog is asking this week. All the previous "Star Wars" movies were rated PG, while the latest installment, "Revenge of the Sith," is rated PG-13 for some intense violence. Bob Moon joins us now from the "Marketplace" news bureau in New York.

And, Bob, who is this group, and what are they so concerned about?

BOB MOON reporting:

Madeleine, the organization that's challenging this Kids Meal tie-in is called The Dove Foundation. It's a non-sectarian family advocacy group. It doesn't think the audience that the Kids Meals are targeting, ages four to nine, have any business getting anywhere close to such intense scenes as the lava-singed skin peeling off Darth Vader's face, for example, the kinds of material that got the movie its PG-13 rating. So it's asking the big fast food chain to stop this tie-in. The group says when the bags and wrappers for the Kids Meals all promote "Revenge of the Sith," that's an implicit endorsement.

This is the same group, by the way, that managed to get an apology out of McDonald's back in 1992 for a similar promotion involving that chain's Happy Meals. Back then, McDonald's acknowledged what it called confusion over its promotion of the PG-13 rated "Batman Returns."

BRAND: And what do the movie promoters and Burger King have to say about this?

MOON: Well, this comes at a time when Burger King is riding the momentum of a big rebound in business. And this "Star Wars" tie-in is the company's first global promotion. Burger King says the chain has had a long-term relationship with the "Star Wars" franchise, and this latest promotion celebrates the whole saga, not just this one movie. In fact, the company points out that only four of the 31 toys that it's putting in these Kids Meals are exclusive to this final installment.

For its part, Lucasfilm told USA Today that "Star Wars" is broader than a single movie, and that parents know the series of movies has been a positive influence. We might note that this isn't the only "Star Wars" promotion. As you're probably aware if you've watched TV or if you've been shopping lately, there's a version of Mr. Potato Head out there that's been dubbed Darth Tater. Yoda is pitching Diet Pepsi, and Darth Vader has been hawking M&M candies.

BRAND: And I'm sure it's safe to say that a few kids under the age of 13 have gone to see this movie. How has it done since it opened last week?

MOON: Well, it's had the biggest four-day domestic opening ever at the box office, although it didn't top "Spiderman" for the opening weekend record. Early estimates are it took in more than $158 million in North America for its opening weekend, and it's been playing strongly overseas as well. Estimates are it took in more than $303 million globally for its opening weekend.

And today in the "Marketplace" newsroom, we're taking a look at how one industry has tried to fight mercury pollution rules.

BRAND: Bob Moon of public radio's daily business show "Marketplace." And "Marketplace" is produced by American Public Media.

Thanks, Bob.

MOON: Thanks, Madeleine.

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