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July 9, 2007

When Fake Food Becomes Fact

This past weekend, to promote the upcoming Simpsons Movie, 7-Eleven transformed a dozen of its stores in various parts of the country into full-fledged Kwik-E-Marts, the convenience store from the TV show (ABC News). While these stores will go back to being 7-Elevens soon, several other stores first seen in television and movies have been reified as lasting tributes to the fiction that inspired them.

  • Following the success of Pulp Fiction in 1994, Jack Rabbit Slims restaurants—minus the Marilyn Monroe look-alikes and twist contests—have popped up everywhere from New York to New Zealand.

  • In 1996, two years after the release of Forrest Gump, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant was launched by Viacom Consumer Products, which has tenuous ties to Paramount Pictures, the movie's distributor. The shrimp shack has since become a big hit, with nearly 30 locations in North America and Asia. Bubba Gump Shrimp has several dishes that make reference to the movie ("Run Forrest Run," "Jenny's Favorite"), and even published its own cookbook.

  • On Labor Day 2002, the fictional Chicken Wing Festival from the film Osmosis Jones became a reality thanks to Drew Cerza, the CEO of a food promotion agency in New York. Five years later, the event is still going strong, with an annual festival every September.

  • The outside shot of Cheers, the famous bar from the show of the same name, was the Bull & Finch Pub in Boston. Once it became a tourist attraction, it was renamed Cheers Beacon Hill, and is now one of close to 50 Cheers bars (most of the rest are in airports) licensed by Paramount around the world. Cast members George Wendt and John Ratzenberger sued after two robots—one fat, one wearing a postal uniform—were installed at the bar of many of the franchises. They eventually settled out of court.

  • Café Nervosa, the coffee shop that occupied a significant chunk of screen-time on Frasier, is now a hipster-heavy Toronto restaurant, serving up classy paninis that would have made Niles proud.

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