Franchising In The Movies: “Meet Bill”

I love movies.  Most people are casual moviegoers; they enjoy watching movies as a pleasant diversion.  For me, movies are more like a way of life.  I love them.  I love the experience of going to a movie theater.  I love the previews.  I love the smell of popcorn.  And most of all, I love the escapism: visiting another world, laughing my guts out, watching massive action set-pieces, nervously having to remind myself that "it's only a movie" when I am waiting for the monster to jump out of the closet… I love all of it.  Not only that, but I am lucky to have a wife that loves all of that as much as I do (except for the scary movie part).  On average, we go to the theater at least twice a week.  We see them all, from the absolutely awful movies like "Old Dogs" to the brilliant, like the film that should have won this year's Oscar for Best Picture, Inglourious Basterds.  And that doesn't even count the movies we watch at home on DVD or the 25-plus movies we see every year while attending the Sundance Film Festival. 

Having established my credentials as a serious film fanatic, I know you will believe me when I say that there really aren't very many movies that deal with franchising.  Mind you, I'm not talking about product placement or suggestive advertising; I know that "Happy Gilmore" prominently featured Subway and that "Return of the Killer Tomatoes" plugged H&R Block (how's that for an obscure reference?).  What I'm talking about are movies that include an aspect of franchising as some aspect of the story.  As a franchise attorney, believe me when I say that I would notice these plot points where most people would not.  So I really sat up and took notice when I watched the movie Meet Bill.

Meet Bill (or "Bill," as it was originally known) is a movie about a thirty-something executive that faces something of a midlife crisis when his marriage begins falling apart.  His professional life, where he works for his wife's father as a bank executive, starts to go in the same direction.  Seeking a change and professional independence, Bill looks into buying a fictional donut franchise called "Sweet Sweet."  While considering this opportunity, you see Bill go through several of the steps of purchasing a franchise: he attends discovery day, he goes through training, and the Sweet Sweet executives help him with site selection.  Although the film takes some liberties, it actually follows fairly closely the franchise sales process.  In that, the film is unique as far as I can tell — no other movie I've ever seen really demonstrates how franchising works.  Indeed, the movie is a good primer for anyone who is interested in purchasing a franchise (keeping in mind, of course, that it is rated R and has some content that may be objectionable to some).

Best of all, Meet Bill is actually a pretty good movie.  It's certainly not one that you will find on many (if any) critic's best lists, but it's an engaging and overall interesting story featuring talented and likeable actors like Aaron Eckhart, Jessica Alba, Elizabeth Banks, and the always-entertaining Kristen Wiig.  So, if you're interested in seeing the only movie I know of that features franchising as a major plot point, I would recommend renting Meet Bill.  If you do watch it, let me know what you think.   

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