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The film stars Denzel Washington. Anheuser-Busch said, “We would never condone the misuse of our products.”

Robert Zuckerman, Associated Press

Budweiser: 2 thumbs down to beer's role in 'Flight'

  • Article by: JOE FLINT and MARK OLSEN
  • Los Angeles Times
  • November 6, 2012 - 11:17 PM

Normally, an advertiser would be thrilled its product is getting free exposure in one of the nation's most popular movies. But if that product is beer and the picture is about a commercial airline pilot with a drinking problem, well, that's a different story.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes America's No. 1-selling beer, Budweiser, is riled about the role its brew has in the new film "Flight," which stars Denzel Washington as a pilot whose drinking habits become an issue in the aftermath of a plane crash.

The brewer went so far as to ask the film's backer, Paramount Pictures, to blur or remove its famous logo from the movie when it is released on DVD, television and made available for streaming, said a person familiar with the situation who was unwilling to speak publicly on the issue.

"We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving," said Anheuser-Busch Vice President Rob McCarthy. "It is disappointing that Image Movers, the production company, and Paramount chose to use one of our brands in this manner."

The movie, about the aftermath of a horrific plane crash, received very positive reviews and opened last weekend in the U.S. and Canada with a strong $25 million in ticket sales. The picture is expected to continue attracting audiences throughout the upcoming holiday season.

Anheuser-Busch said Tuesday that it received no advance notice from Paramount that its product would be appearing in the film. But a lawsuit against the studio, owned by media giant Viacom Inc., seems highly unlikely. The courts have typically sided with the creative community when it comes to featuring real products in movies and television shows.

Paramount declined to elaborate on the matter involving Anheuser-Busch and "Flight." Other alcoholic beverages, including vodka brands Stolichnaya, Smirnoff and Absolut, also are featured in the movie.

Some wonder if Anheuser-Busch's complaints about the film might not bring the brewer more attention than if it had just kept quiet about the matter.

"I think they are being overly sensitive," said Allen Adamson, managing partner with the branding firm Landor Associates. "I don't think people seeing a character using alcohol inappropriately are going to make the connection back to the brand or think the brand condones the behavior."

© 2014 Star Tribune