Duke City man finds fortune in cookies
By Dan Mayfield ~ Tribune Reporter (505) 823-3620
From The Albuquerque Tribune
August 9, 2002
When moviegoers visit any of the five Madstone Theaters across the country this weekend, they will have an alternative to the popcorn and candy offered at the counter.The Madstone company recently bought 10,000 Film Fortunes cookies, fortune cookies with a famous movie line inside, to sell at the concession stands. The cookies, designed by Albuquerque film producer and director Charlie O'Dowd, will sell for 75 cents each, or two for a buck at Madstone, said Dave Anderson, vice president of promotions at Madstone.
"Everybody likes movie lines. With VCRs, people watch movies over and over, and they say these lines over and over and you remember them," O'Dowd said. "I just put them in a cookie."
Madstone, a new art-house cinema off San Mateo Boulevard in the former San Mateo 8 location, is trying to carve a niche for itself as a different type of theater, Anderson said, and the cookies are one of many ways the theater chain is differentiating itself.
"We're going to make them a permanent item in the Madstone collection," Anderson said. "Part of what makes these nice is that we're offering lower-priced items at the concession stand. Two cookies could be your sole purchase."
"And they're hilarious and totally fun," he said.
Rather than a fortune or a series of lucky numbers, O'Dowd's cookies have lines such as, "It's better to be looked over than overlooked," said by Mae West in "Belle of the Nineties."
But the cookies haven't been an overnight success for O'Dowd. The idea has been eight years in the making.
In 1994 O'Dowd was busy playing celebrity for a day in major cities across the country as a member of the "Bud Light Team," a group making beer commercials.
"It was the Bud Light Tour and we would show up in places like Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and we'd be the party for a couple of days," O'Dowd said.
The team's goal was to make Bud Light commercials with young, pretty people partying. O'Dowd was the assistant director and co-producer of the series.
But after the parties were over and the crew finished picking up empty bottles, the different groups would split up. Production would go to one trailer, camera crews would go somewhere else.
"I started putting movie lines on index cards and people had to use them to talk to each other," O'Dowd said. The index cards would come out before and after each shoot, and, he said, "All of a sudden, everything changed and people were laughing and joking."
"I knew people loved them, I just needed a vehicle," he said.
So about five years later he finally found a cookie company in Minnesota that makes fortune cookies and had 20 dozen cookies made with 12 lines. He formed his new company - Working Boy Productions LLC - and started hustling the cookies.
"But I'm not a businessman. I didn't know what to do with them," he said.
He took some to video-rental chains, but it seemed too cumbersome at the time to get the cookies in the stores.
So he held on to the cookies and made more. Hundreds more.
Through a copyright provision called the Fair Use Doctrine, which allows people to use very small portions of larger works for free, O'Dowd is allowed to use the lines. He's so far collected nearly 1,000 lines of every genre for future batches of cookies.
Earlier this year as he was wrapping up production on a documentary about the Big-I for Albuquerque public relations firm Cooney Watson & Associates, he ran into Jennifer Riordan, who was working for the firm on the Madstone opening.
"I loved the idea and I was getting food together for the (Madstone) opening," she said. "And I said, why don't you bring some down?"
So in June, when the new Madstone Theater had its grand-opening gala in Albuquerque, a big black bucket of 250 fortune cookies was sitting next to dainty plates of brie and crackers.
"Everybody loved them," Riordan said.
"We loved them immediately," Anderson said.
After eight years of trying to get the cookies to market, success at the opening took O'Dowd by surprise.
"Madstone came along before I was ready. They goosed me," O'Dowd said. "All of a sudden I'm making 10,000."
Charlie O'Dowd takes a call while leaving the University of New Mexico Biology Building, where he is part of the crew filming "Suspect Zero." O'Dowd has to balance that job with the sudden success of his fortune cookie business.
SOME FILM FORTUNES LINES
Charlie O'Dowd says these are some of his favorite Film Fortunes lines.
"So shines a good deed in a weary world."
—Gene Wilder in WILLIE WONKA
"I like a girl in a bikini. no concealed weapons."
— THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN
"Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life."
—Dean Wormer in ANIMAL HOUSE
Source: Film Fortunes