Almost exactly a year ago, we wrote about a rather encouraging development in filmmaking, highlighting the story of Warner Bros. film studio working out a deal with the producer and actors of the popular Veronica Mars
TV show, that if they could prove demand for a film via Kickstarter, Warner Bros. would fund the rest of the film. Basically, Warner Bros. had been unconvinced that there was enough demand for a movie to finance it upfront. But, with tools like Kickstarter today, you can prove
demand upfront, taking away a big part of the risk. And that's exactly what happened
, as the project raised over the $2 million target very quickly, and eventually brought in $5.7 million. Part of what was interesting about this was it showed how movie studios could actually embrace crowdfunding as well, creating some interesting hybrid models that don't always involve some studio head deciding what people will and won't like.
The movie came out last week to very good reviews
... but leave it to Warner Bros. to totally muck it up, screw over the goodwill from all those backers and scare people off from such future collaborations. That's because one of the popular tiers promised supporters that they would get a digital download of the movie within days of it opening. But, of course, this is a major Hollywood studio, and due to their irrational fear of (oh noes!) "piracy" they had to lock things down completely. That means that backers were shunted off to a crappy and inconvenient service owned by Warner Bros
called Flixster, which very few people use, and then forced to use Hollywood's super hyped up but dreadful DRM
known as UltraViolet.
The end result? A complete disaster
for the film's biggest fans and supporters:
“My first and last time using Flixster or Ultraviolet,” Jennifer Gottried wrote. “Not happy about what a pain the digital “download” is, but loved the movie!” Carolyn O'Neill said she felt “ripped off,” adding “I will not be supporting anything VMars related in the future, and may never support a similar Kickstarter project again.”
Others labeled Flixster “unreliable,” “crap,” “slow” and “punishing.” There are those who downloaded the movie without a hiccup, and those who did have been effusive in their praise. Yet the majority expressed dismay....
Reading through the comments
shows an awful lot of angry folks, with lots of blame being directed at Flixster, and some people angry that the creator of Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas, let this happen. He eventually posted that while he had "hoped" that Warner Bros. would allow more options, "unfortunately, it just wasn't possible. In the end, Flixster was the best option for getting the digital movie reward out to all of you, worldwide, at the same time." There may be something to do with regional restrictions, yet in the comments, you see people claim that when they tried to get their digital copy, they were told, "Sorry, the redemption code you have entered is not valid for the territory you are currently trying to redeem from." So, it's not clear how Flixster actually solves that global issue. Multiple people in the comments note that they eventually just gave up getting the authorized version and hit up unauthorized sources instead.
Eventually, Warner Bros. announced that it would provide refunds to backers who had trouble getting the digital download, which seems like the least it could do, given the situation. But, the end result appears to have left a sour taste in a lot of peoples' mouths. So, way to go, legacy Hollywood, for taking an exciting success story of internet-empowered opportunity, and destroying it with crappy and lame proprietary platforms and restrictive DRM. Once again, you show how to screw up just about every opportunity handed to you.