TORONTO — In a daring marketing ploy, the indie film company A24 has struck a deal with a Los Angeles medical-marijuana dispensary to sell two new cannabis strains under brands associated with Kevin Smith’s outré horror flick, “Tusk.” The film, about a guy who is slowly turning into a walrus, is set for a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday night.
The medical marijuana will be available at the Buds & Roses dispensary in the Studio City district of Los Angeles from Monday to Sept. 26 under the brand names Mr. Tusk and White Walrus.
“White Walrus, I’m told, is more mellow and uplifting,” said Graham Retzik, an A24 marketing strategist, in a phone interview.
Mr. Tusk, he added, is supposedly more intense.
One of two medical-marijuana brands connected to the new film “Tusk,” directed by Kevin Smith.
“The two are surprisingly complex, in keeping with the spirit of the film,” Mr. Retzik said.
From a marketing standpoint, any idea that keeps a movie from being drowned in the din of the 400 or so new films being shown here is probably a good thing.
And the notion of turning to a cannabis compound for support is particularly attuned to Mr. Smith’s fans. After all, they’ve already followed him through the twists and turns of a film series that featured Jay and Silent Bob, a couple of low-grade pot dealers who were first seen selling their wares in Mr. Smith’s “Clerks,” released in 1994.
“This is right at the intersection of art and stoner culture,” Mr. Retzik said of “Tusk,” which is part horror, part comedy, and generally outrageous.
Justin Long stars in “Tusk.”
The movie, which stars Justin Long and Haley Joel Osment, has something to do with a pair of podcasters who venture into Canada on a quest for a samurai sword-wielding teenager from a viral video. What they find is the sort of thing you might imagine after smoking too much Mr. Tusk.
The two branded marijuana strains were actually grown for Buds & Roses by a partnership called Kushman Veganics.
Aaron Justis, a Kushman partner and the president of Buds & Roses, said in an email provided by an A24 spokesman that the cannabis represents “two of the best strains we have ever grown” One of them, he said, has been entered in the Cannabis Cup competition in Seattle under the alternate name Veganic Chernobyl (GT). The other was initially developed under the nickname Purple Drink, because it has what Mr. Justis calls a “purple Kool-Aid” taste, smell and look.
Mr. Retzik said he was not aware of any previous attempt by a film company to create a marijuana product tie-in, though occasionally pot sellers have appropriated the names of popular movies, including “Pineapple Express,” which was distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment, in their packaging. “Tusk” is rated R for violence, gore, strong language and sexual content, but it does not have pot-smoking scenes, Mr. Retzik said.
The idea of a tie-in, he said, resulted from a “group effort” at A24, a New York film company that has previously dabbled in outrage with youth-oriented movies like “The Bling Ring” and “Spring Breakers.”
Movie tie-ins have become ever more elaborate, and imaginative, since Burger King broke some ground in 1977 when it offered various “Star Wars” gewgaws with its wares. One of the grander efforts involved Air New Zealand covering its airliners with Middle- earth imagery in support of Peter Jackson’s various Hobbit-related films.
“Tusk,” Mr. Retzik said, will open in theaters on Sept. 19. He said the branded marijuana strains might conceivably become available in Colorado, where pot is legal, if the film develops a large audience there. But the cannabis campaign was started in Los Angeles, he said, because of that city’s film ties.
Mr. Smith, who spoke in a phone interview from California, where he is doing film work and prepping for his Toronto appearance, said he was “dying” to try the new weed.
“This movie was born in a blaze, and will be released in a blaze,” he said.
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