Georgie Pie film raises McDonald's ire

By Christopher Adams

Mark Hawthorne. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mark Hawthorne. Photo / Greg Bowker

McDonald's threatened legal action against student filmmakers unless a company spokeswoman's statement - regarding the fast food giant's intentions for its Georgie Pie brand - was removed from a documentary.

In 2008 Gareth Thorne and Drew Chappell made the film Bring Back the George, which featured a one-day-only reopening of a "Georgie Pie" restaurant at a Christchurch bakery.

The restaurant chain, which once sold up to 700,000 pies a week, closed in the late 1990s after McDonald's bought it from its former owner, supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises.

The Golden Arches still owns the rights to the Georgie Pie brand, and its managing director said last week that the company had been conducting consumer research to find out "how, when or if" it could make a comeback.

But in Bring Back the George, which was still on YouTube this week, former McDonald's communications manager Kate Porter said: "We have no intention of ...

reintroducing Georgie Pie to New Zealand. But certainly if somebody wanted to reintroduce Georgie Pie ... we'd be happy if they wanted to come and talk to us and buy the trademarks."

See the movie here.

Thorne, son of former All Black Grahame Thorne, said McDonald's then threatened legal action unless Porter's statement was removed.

"She said we misrepresented her and all this carry on," he said. "But that's what she said so I don't [know] how you can misrepresent exactly what she said."

Thorne, who now works for Sky TV, said the documentary was then altered to feature Porter saying that if there was a demand for reintroducing Georgie Pie the company would consider resurrecting the brand.

The decision was made to alter the film before its television screening because the pie brand was used in the documentary, which may have provided McDonald's with grounds to take legal action, he said.

McDonald's managing director Mark Hawthorne said yesterday that at the time Porter made her original statement in 2008 there had been "little significant consumer interest" in Georgie Pie.

"Following the interview and subsequent conversations McDonald's wrote to the producers, and the senior lecturer at the New Zealand Broadcasting School [where Thorne and Chappell were studying], outlining some concerns with the interview process, and trademark and copyright infringements," he said.

"Some time later the producers chose to broadcast the documentary to a much wider audience [on television] than was initially outlined.

"McDonald's hadn't taken any action on the infringements when the documentary was made initially, but when it became clear it was going to be aired more widely the producers were told McDonald's could not accept further infringements or use of statements that were out of context."

Martin Gummer, a former North Shore bakery owner who approached McDonald's about reintroducing Georgie Pie in 2008, said last week he believed McDonald's saw a return of the brand as a threat to burger sales.

- NZ Herald

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