Coca-Cola’s Dumbest Idea Will Be Chronicled in a Movie

By  · Published on April 28th, 2015

You could say that Coca-Cola doesn’t need another movie. One Two Three is a masterpiece, The Gods Must Be Crazy was an interesting phenomenon for its time and The Coca-Cola Kid says it all right there in the title. Plus the brand has prominently appeared in classics including the original King Kong, It’s a Wonderful Life, Bonnie and Clyde, Jaws and Taxi Driver. The company even owned Columbia Pictures in the 1980s.

But as long as Coca-Cola continues to be a symbolic product, of America, of globalism, of capitalism, it has a rightful place in any visual medium. And in all of the arts, including cinema, the company and brand are used critically or satirically as much as if not more than for product placement. According to Deadline, there’s a movie now in the works about New Coke, which definitely won’t be that favorable to its misguided manufacturers.

New Coke debuted 30 years ago this month as a response to the rising popularity of Pepsi, especially among young people. But New Coke was an immediate flop and quickly pulled from stores and replaced with the soda’s familiar formula, branded as Coca-Cola Classic. The failure of New Coke has gone down in history as one of the biggest business blunders of all time, and it’s still used today as a comparative measure and punchline for other bad ideas.

Thomas Oliver covered the story in Coca-Cola’s hometown for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and in 1986 published a book about the debacle titled “The Real Coke, The Real Story.” Decades later, Zombieland and Deadpool screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have optioned the book on their own, and hopefully they’ll get the thing moving all the way to the big screen soon, because it will fit in with a growing interest in movies shining a negative light on the inside stories of giant corporate brands.

This New Coke movie will follow The Social Network (aka the Facebook movie) and the upcoming Ray Kroc biopic The Founder (aka the McDonald’s movie), and what is interesting about all their subjects is they’re too big to be harmed by an unfavorable portrayal in a movie. McDonald’s has already stated that they won’t challenge production on The Founder, because it’s part of history. Coca-Cola will likely have a similar attitude on Wernick and Reese’s movie.

Of course, Coca-Cola won’t look nearly as bad as Mark Zuckerberg and Ray Kroc with their business decisions. They’ll look dumb, not evil. And maybe that can open up for more movies about business and marketing disasters. Maybe after the New Coke movie comes out and Pepsi is having a laugh, Wernick and Reese can write a sorta sequel about Crystal Pepsi. Or they can write an actual, title-ready sequel called Coke II about when New Coke returned to shelves five years later as, yes, Coke II.

Watch then-head of Coca-Cola Don Keough (who died recently and so won’t get to see who plays him in the movie) giving a press conference acknowledging the failure of New Coke:

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.