Although Winn-Dixie won't see any revenue from the film, it will reap the benefit of exposure through a multitude of promotional venues that will keep its name in nearly constant circulation, including a permanent place in homes on DVD and video.
Winn-Dixie spokeswoman Joanne Gage said the company sold the book in stores when it came out in 2000, and learned about plans to make it a feature film nearly two years ago.
After reading the script, Winn-Dixie agreed to let 20th Century Fox film inside the circa 1967 Donaldsonville, La., store and use the company's name in the film, Gage said.
As for the exposure Winn-Dixie would have paid for under other circumstances, Gage said she couldn't put a dollar figure on it.
"I would say you can't buy publicity like that," said Gage, vice president of advertising and marketing. "We felt it was in our best interest to work with [20th Century Fox] and do the promotion rather than worry about charging them for the store.
"We probably lost some revenue by closing the store for some periods of time, but it was never about the money. It's a beautiful story and it's nice because [the book] makes Winn-Dixie a household name. Having a movie made about it is even better."
The marriage of a film and a brand name or product is nothing new in entertainment, and is a viable positioning vehicle that opens an unparalleled door for consumer exposure, Sauer said.
Because product positioning has grown into "a Wild West game where people pay millions," Sauer said it's impossible to estimate what Winn-Dixie might have paid for such advertising.
And though he doesn't see the movie as packing enough promotional power to save Winn-Dixie's brand, Sauer does credit the grocery chain for maximizing the exposure through ties to its customer reward card. The company has established thresholds shoppers can reach with their grocery bill to receive movie tickets, a copy of the book and a plush dog.
"It's really important that they're doing that because it maximizes the benefit, and that's really what you're looking for," Sauer said. "It's probably a win-win, but it does depend on how much mileage you can get out of it. This is a chance for Winn-Dixie to improve its image for close to free."