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When ‘Gilmore Girls’ takes over your local coffee shop

Donna Tam Oct 5, 2016
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Brittany Jeng, 29, and Heather Bladt, 33, pose for a photo in front of a Luke’s sign displayed outside the Comoncy Cafe in Studio City, Calif. The pair waited in line for two hours at the popup event promoting the new “Gilmore Girls” series on Netflix.
Donna Tam/Marketplace

Netflix’s nationwide promotion for its revival of “Gilmore Girls,” a show that has been off air for nearly a decade, basically centered around a piece of cardboard:

This coffee cup sleeve — displaying the logo of Luke’s, the fictional diner prominently featured in the show — prompted thousands of people across the country to stand in lines this morning as part of a promotional stunt for the new mini-series, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” set to air on Nov. 25.  Netflix orchestrated the event for 200 coffee shops in all 50 states and Canada, according to this website created for the fictional town of Stars Hollow, where the show is set.

Other TV shows have inspired pop-up events, including WarnerBros.’ Central Perk pop-up, which mimicked the fictional cafe in “Friends,” and Hulu’s recreation of the “Seinfeld” apartment. But those were elaborate set replicas created in one location. Netflix’s marketing was less involved, but more widespread. In addition to the cup sleeves, the company sent local shops swag for their baristas, a fake Luke’s sign and offered free coffee for a limited time.

And the show’s fans delivered.

They arrived in plaid shirts and backward baseball caps — the uniform of Luke Danes, the show’s male lead and proprietor of Luke’s. They made the event trend on Twitter. Twice. They waited in line for hours.

Sisters Heather Bladt, 33, and Brittany Jeng, 29, got in line at 6:25 a.m. for the pop-up at Comoncy Cafe in Studio City, California. They waited two hours for their coffee. At one point, the line snaked through the parking lot of a neighboring Peet’s Coffee shop that was 500 feet away. Fans were jumping out of the line to buy coffee inside the Peet’s before getting back into line to wait for their Luke’s coffee.

Bladt and Jeng, who already have the release date of the new mini-series marked on both of their calendars, appreciated the marketing stunt. The barista caps had the Netflix logo on the front and a Luke’s logo on the back.

Fans of the TV show “Gilmore Girls” wait in line in Studio City, Calif. to enter a popup coffee shop promoting the new Netflix series based on the show.

“It was really good advertising for Netflix because they wear it backwards,” Bladt said.

The two fans watched the show when it was on the air, but they also own the DVD box set of the series, Jeng said.

The fandom around “Gilmore Girls” illustrates how a TV show can have a long shelf life, and what that means for streaming services like Netflix. Not only does streaming a series like “Gilmore Girls” capture audiences who are nostalgic for their TV days, it can help cultivate new, younger viewers.

Twenty-three-year-old Manuela Alcala said she caught some of the last on-air episodes when she was growing up in Venezuela, but otherwise she was mostly watching re-runs. Then Amazon Prime released the series.

Samantha Granes, 22, and Manuela Alcala, 23, wait for their chance to enter a “Gilmore Girls” popup coffee shop.

“I watch the whole thing in a month, maybe less than a month,” she said.

Despite working a long over-night shift, she arrived in a Luke’s t-shirt to wait in line for the pop-up experience.While the only thing Alcala would leave with was coffee, she said was looking forward to the being inside the shop and taking in some of the Gilmore nostalgia.

“It sounds ridiculous,” she said. “I’m pretty sure in like a month or so, I’m going to be like remember that day we were there at 6:50 in the morning to get free coffee with a sleeve, because it’s all about a sleeve.”

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