Walmart Revives ‘Office Space’ in Bid to Shake Up Black Friday Shopping

Office Space, the 1999 cult-favorite comedy that helped millions of office drones express their frustrations with working life, is making a comeback.

Walmart, the massive U.S. retailer, is reviving the movie with a new ad campaign that uses the talents of actors Gary Cole, who played the infamous corporate manager Bill Lumbergh and Ajay Naidu, who played the rebellious tech worker Samir Nagheenanajar. Despite the fact that their workplace, home to the soul-enervating Initech, burned to the ground at the end of the Mike Judge movie, both are back on the job, doing many of the same things they did more than two decades ago.

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“Office Space” is a movie that “wasn’t as well-received as it needed to be” when it was first released, says Naidu, in an interview. But thanks to “the advent of the DVD and the new ways of watching things, it spoke so deeply to a generation and what they did and didn’t have to look forward to when they went to work.”

Walmart is trying to create a new image for “a case of the Mondays,” a workplace malady that strikes many nine-to-fivers each week and that served as an essential theme of the movie, which portrays working stiff Peter Gibbons and his efforts to navigate around all the rules and regulations of life at Initech. The new reason to celebrate the first working day of the week, at least in the view of the retailer, is that most if its holiday-sales efforts are moving there. Walmart has in recent years tried to expand the concept of “Black Friday,” the one-day retail rush that takes place on the day after Thanksgiving, to the broader pre-holiday season. Many of its sales and bargains show up online — at the start of the week,.

“We know customers want to shop for deals earlier, and they want to shop for deals often,” says Casey Casey Schlaybaugh, Walmart’s vice president of brand marketing and strategy.

Walmart isn’t the only big advertiser — it spent $1.67 billion on mainstream media advertising in 2021, according to ad-spending tracker Kantar — to tap into the power of TV and film properties from the 1990s. Earlier this year, General Motors revived the HBO series “The Sopranos” (which debuted in 1999) for a few moments in a Super Bowl ad, and tapped the cast of that decade’s “Austin Powers” movies to tout electric vehicles.

The “Office Space” ads will surface in episodic fashion each Monday in November, and also appear on broadcast TV and in ads in movie theaters, says Schlaybaugh.

Fans may also get a surprise. One of the running jokes in the movie was the plight of a character named Michael Bolton, played by actor David Herman, who was compared to the more famous singer with the same name. The joke, says the real Bolton, has stuck — so much so that he often encountered fans of the movie when he would do autograph signings for new releases eager to have him sign a copy of an “Office Space” DVD. “It feels like I was further into that fan base than I knew,” he says.

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