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Friday, June 11, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Starbucks Teams With `Dr. Evil' -- Bent On World Domination? Company Stars In New Movie

Seattle Times Business Reporter

First came the Fox television show "Ally McBeal," in which characters tote Starbucks cups and coffee mugs. Then came the 1998 film "You've Got Mail," parts of which were shot in a Starbucks store.

Now, Seattle-based Starbucks is prominently featured in the new Mike Myers comedy, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," which opens today.

The film has a decidedly Seattle flavor. Much of it is set in the Space Needle, depicted as the hideaway headquarters of Powers' arch-nemesis, Dr. Evil.

The character even has his own Starbucks store atop the Needle, complete with baristas in the trademark green aprons.

Starbucks, which paid nothing for the appearances in any of the productions, says it was approached by Myers and his handlers for permission to include the company's logo in the new movie. Starbucks spokesman Chris Gimbl says the company is being approached more and more by television and film producers.

"Hollywood and the movie industry have identified our brand as an icon of American life," Gimbl said. "We are very interested in continuing to play a part" in TV and movies.

Starbucks, which spends virtually no money on advertising, depends on boosting its brand recognition to increase sales. It attracts more than 8 million customers to its 2,000-plus stores worldwide each week. Last year's annual sales were $1.3 billion.

If the first "Austin Powers" movie is any indication, it's no wonder Starbucks went along with the latest deal.

The 1997 film, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," grossed $53.8 million and was seen by thousands of moviegoers - and potential coffee drinkers - nationwide. That's not to mention the $24 million in video rentals so far.

Such exposure does not come without risk, however. For example, Gimbl says Starbucks had no control over the new "Austin Powers," although the film's producers did allow the company to see the script and storyboards before shooting.

Is there a downside to Starbucks being associated with evil - Dr. Evil, that is?

Gimbl says the broad exposure Starbucks receives from Hollywood is worth whatever risks there are.

"We've never been a company," Gimbl says, "that's afraid to laugh at itself."

Robert Marshall Wells: 206-464-2412. E-mail: rwells@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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