Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter Heralding In a New Era Of…
Yesterday Kristen Bell hinted there would be something of interest for Veronica Mars fans appearing on Entertainment Weekly’s site on March 13th. The article she was acknowledging was a piece to kick off a Kickstarter for a Veronica Mars movie, something Bell and Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas have talked about to anyone since the show went off the air in 2007.
Not familiar with Veronica Mars? It’s Dashiell Hammett’s The OC, a teenage PI navigating the difficult currents of a twisted little town with far too many secrets and class divisions. The titular character and the show itself was often compared to Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon was such a fan of Veronica Mars that he appeared on-screen in on episode, as did Kevin Smith another fan. The show had quite a distinguished following including Stephen King, but sadly it didn’t have a large following… or at least a large enough following for The CW to keep the show on the air.
Now six years after the fact Thomas and Bell want to get the band back together and have one more kick at the can. After years of saying no, Warner Brothers, who owns the property, said if Thomas could come up with the financing and show there was interest they would greenlight a low-budget feature and pay for promotion and other costs. Enter the Kickstarter for a modest, by film standards, two million dollars. Considering that only a handful of Kickstarters get that high, it seemed that at 10:00 AM EDT, Veronica and her marshmallows would need all of the 30 days to have a shot at reviving a dead property.
Of course what happened after that was really unthinkable. In little over four hours the campaign had reached the half way mark of one million dollars, the fastest in Kickstarter history. That’s close to $4000 per minute. In under 11 hours the project was fully funded with a full 30 days left in the campaign and no signs of slowing down. Sure the Kickstarter won’t reach the Kicktraq trend of $60 000 000, but it should have a decent amount of money for a relatively cheap mystery movie.
So other than looking forward to a new chapter in the Veronica Mars saga next spring, where does that leave us? Well we have a cult TV show being funded by its fans and an entertainment company who will distribute a movie with very little risk to itself. Warner Brothers will risk promotional costs to put a film in limited theatre release that cost it nothing to produce and knows it has a built-in fan base who will see the movie and buy the home video release. Thomas estimates there are three million Veronica Mars fans and the Kickstarter is a drop in the bucket of those fans. The upside could be huge because all the production costs were paid for by a small amount of fans.
One of the other interesting thing that the Kickstarter promises is that backers of a certain level will get a digital copy of the movie DAYS after it is released in theatre. Yes, the theatrical release is really more of a promotion for the home video release, but then on some level most “real” movie releases can be said to be on the same boat of making more on home video than in the popcorn vendor’s barns. But the idea you could have a legitimate copy of a movie that is still in theatres is one boundary that Warner Brothers certainly wants to push against. And as the movie is already paid for, piracy will be less of an issue, certainly the camcorder in theatre type.
The question then is have we seen a defining moment in a new way to finance and distribute filmed entertainment in Hollywood? The answer is a definite maybe. A film like Avatar could never be crowdsourced, period. There is still a demand for large blockbusters with insane budgets. They are risky ventures though. Small cult films though could be made with little risk to major distributors and a built-in fan base would give an idea of how lucrative the film may be. Or it might be be that only properties with fanatical movements behind them, Firefly I’m looking at you, have a shot at this model. Put another way, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead or Prince can release albums by ransom or pay as you like, but could a band people had never heard of be able to.
Many eyes have been opened by this Kickstarter and we should expect so see some others like it. Whether it’s a sustainable trend or a one hit wonder, we still have one more Veronica Mars story.