Friday, March 28, 2014

Veronica Mars Film a Smash Hit Among Fans

Written by Brandon Engel.

You don’t have to be familiar with the Veronica Mars television series to know the unusual circumstances surrounding the recent film of the same name. The film, which was made almost entirely from donated funds through a Kickstarter campaign, is showing the movie industry that fans should and can have more control over the entertainment they are sold. It’s an innovative concept for film executives who have spent decades testing the waters, trying to find the next big thing.

While Veronica Mars was on the air its viewer numbers remained constant between the first and last season, with an average of 2.5 million viewers. Thus, its cancellation in 2007 after only three seasons came as a shock to the show’s cult following as well as it’s writer/creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell. Shortly after the cancellation, Thomas write a film script based on the show, but was forced to shelve it for a few years while working on other projects. 

When he repeatedly approached Warner Brothers (who own the rights to the Veronica Mars name) with the script and idea for the movie he was rejected, with the studio citing lack of interest in the project. He and Bell discussed using Kickstarter as a means to fund the project, based largely off of other successful campaigns run by celebrities like Zach Braff and Spike Lee. They approached Warner Bros. with the idea for the Kickstarter campaign, and the studio agreed to let them do it.

There have been other Kickstarter campaigns for films in the past, but what set Veronica Mars apart from the pack was that it was the first film owned by a major studio to do so. The campaign was picked up by the press and heavily promoted through social media, due in large part to the growing cult fan base who, thanks to online streaming, have been able to keep the series alive. Within the first 11 hours of the campaign, it had already reached its goal of $2 million, becoming the fastest Kickstarter campaign to ever do so. It also became the campaign with the highest number contributors, totaling 91,585. 

Now that the film has been in theaters for two weeks, it appears its online presence is still as strong as ever. The sentiment measurement tools from the social media analysis company ViralHeat show that as of this week posts and tweets referencing Veronica Mars are 98% positive on Facebook and 77% positive on Twitter. The film has also come full circle to fans who first watched the series online, since the film has become available in digital form alongside the theatrical release. 

So far, the film has made about $2.8 million at the box office, but that doesn’t take into account digital sales. Thomas told Entertainment Weekly that if the box office sales hit a certain, unnamed, number he would begin talks with Warner Brothers for a sequel. While we may not know the fate of the Veronica Mars franchise now, I think we’ve all learned to expect her eventual return.

Brandon is a freelance writer who also contributed the Phillip Seymour Hoffman Memorial to The Film Emporium. 

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