Warner Bros. Lets Veronica Mars Crew Prove Demand For A Movie Via Kickstarter

from the a-market-research-platform dept

Just a few weeks ago, we wrote about how Kickstarter was incredibly valuable not only as a pre-sales tool but as a way to prove marketability for investors. It appears that even some in Hollywood are recognizing this. In a bit of a surprise move, Warner Bros. has allowed the folks from the critically acclaimed (but viewer-challenged) TV show Veronica Mars to launch a massive Kickstarter campaign to prove that there’s demand for a Veronica Mars movie. They put together a cute, mostly in-character video to explain the details:

They need to hit $2 million to get the greenlight from Warner. The money will go into the budget of the film, which has the original actors and the show creator/writer returning (excitedly) to make this a reality after years of talking about the possibility but not having enough believers at Warner.

This is fascinating on a variety of levels. First, it serves as a simple reminder that Kickstarter works as a demand-confirmation tool. Second, and perhaps more interestingly, it suggests ways that traditional Hollywood can integrate with something like Kickstarter at times. While some of old world Hollywood likes to insist that Kickstarter could never be used to fund a “real” movie, it appears that some more progressive-thinking folks at Warner are willing to give this a shot. From show creator Rob Thomas’ explanation:

Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made. No Kickstarter project ever has set a goal this high. It’s up to you, the fans, now. If the project is successful, our plan is to go into production this summer and the movie will be released in early 2014.

It would appear that his nerves need not be wracked for all that long. Within just a few hours, many thousands of fans had jumped on board, and they’d already passed $1 million and were well on their way to $2 million, and probably significantly beyond that (there are still 30 days to go!)

Separately, one of the things that doesn’t get that much attention in crowdfunding campaigns is the importance of having cool rewards, and it looks like the Veronica Mars crew did a good job. They have a lot of options, with the lowest one being getting a script of the movie on the day it comes out. Surprisingly, they’re also promising a digital download “a few days” after the movie’s theatrical debut. That will be interesting to see in practice, since theaters have balked (stupidly) at showing films that have too small a “window” between theatrical release and digital release. Hopefully theaters aren’t so short-sighted in this case, and will realize that many Veronica Mars fans will likely want to see the film on the big screen even if they’re getting the digital version.

Other reward levels include the standard stuff like t-shirts, DVDs and posters (some of them signed), as well as more advanced options like voicemail or video greetings from the actors (Kristen Bell costs more, not surprisingly), hanging out on the set, a role in the movie, tickets to the premiere and more. What’s impressive is that most of the high end items are sold out already — within just a few hours of the launch.

Of course, this makes you wonder why Warner Bros. was so unsure that there would be a market for this movie in the first place. Still, kudos to the studio for being willing to jump on board with this kind of experiment.

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Companies: kickstarter, warner bros.

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Comments on “Warner Bros. Lets Veronica Mars Crew Prove Demand For A Movie Via Kickstarter”

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Corwin (profile) says:

Re: Good idea!

So they’ll prove AGAIN that innovation IS plagiarism!

My mom invented and patented a process that was stupidly obvious, and successfully defended it in court against a bigger company that never got that process right in years of R&D. (So, maybe it wasn’t THAT obvious.) The patent is now public domain, and that’s why YOU probably encountered a product using that same process.

But it wasn’t as good as ours. Because everyone copied our process, but no-one copied our quality. No-one in our industry ever tries to even approach the level of purity of our product. But we also suck at marketing, so importers and distributors won’t carry our brand because they figure there is no demand for it. (While selling worse knock-offs, go figure that.)

We changed a whole industry, but we’re not selling much. But YOU can get the result, sort of, because other producers copied the process. At least you benefit from the idea. Because other producers copied the process.

But… they do not make the same product we do. We’re still making the highest-quality money can buy, the best in its category. But, if they’re not using the same processes in the other parts of manufacturing the product, then that product is in a different category, and it might be just as good as what we do.

THAT is innovation. Tying a new process into existing products, adapting new processes to obsolete material, testing new material for efficiency in abandoned processes, THAT’S WHAT PROGRESS MEANS.

So, telling the same story a dozen times by ripping off the latest success in some genre? That’s always been done and always will. Copyright is irrelevant, it’s an historical accident and the idea that ideas can be owned is ridiculous and will be recognized as such in law shortly, because it’s becoming too fucking evident to ignore.

Corwin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I see what you’re getting at, but I think it’s important that they’re doing it. They’re even doing it better than they realize.

They’re accepting downloads under short windows, and theater operators (stop calling them owners, they’re semi-independent at best) will shut up and like it or face a dearth of movies. It’s not like studios don’t own the distributors who control who gets to screen what.

They’re selling copies of the script. How many people will begin writing because of those copies? Even if none directly. Maybe some fanfic will use a throwaway line from there and make it a meme. How influential on how many future writers in how long a time? No cultural artifact is truly useless.

That’s just one, two details off the top of my head. The business is changing, and although they’re too stupid to understand exactly how, they’re still going in a direction that’s not completely wrong : it involves the audience in the process. So what if it’s the financing part of movie making? It’s still power to the people.

Yeah, they’ll try to sell it twice. So what? Kickstart it then torrent the movie, problem solved.

AB says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I don’t disagree, I am just suggesting holding off on the celebration until after we see were things lead. If it weren’t for the incredible imbalance of power hollywood wields in government circles I would believe this was an awesome step forward. Instead I merely hope that’s what it is. It could also spell the beginning of the end for kickstarter if hollywood decides to start making getting involved in changing what is currently a fully functioning system (for instance notice that this is restricted to a US only audience; imagine if hollywood decided that all kickstarter projects should be region restricted. The potential damage greedy and unthinking executives could inflict on the system through simple legal pressure haunts me…).

As I said, that’s just my cynicism – I’ve heard the phrase “they would never do something like that” proven wrong so often I now automatically delete the ‘never’. I do agree that this could be a great thing, and I very much hope for that outcome even if I plan to hold off my own celebration until after the courtroom battles have been resolved. In fact I think this had to happen at some point, and this is probably the best possible way for it to come about.

Esmertina says:


Well, they’re not making consumers pay, they’re letting them. They’re asking connecting with their community of fans and asking them for support. And while they call it “donations,” it’s actually a pre-order. Everyone who gives gets something pretty cool back.

For more on the Art of Asking this recent TED talk says it better than I could: http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, they should be pissed at not getting more than what was clearly spelled out that they would get. That kind of stuff pisses me off to no end. Claim I’ll get X if I pay Y, and then give me X?!! Who the hell are they?! Who do they think I am?!!? I read the deal, I understood it, I willingly paid Y to get X, and they have the gall, the absolute audacity, the chutzpah, to merely give me X! I demand a resolution to this, and now!! When I pay Y to get X, I require X+more. It’s only fair.

Wait, what?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Warner get the profits, but they also handle the risk and all the work in getting the film made. Fans get a movie that they want, people who fund the project are already paying for a copy of the movie and exclusive merchandise if they wish, one guy even gets to have a role in the movie.

Why are “profits” the only reward that matters? If you’re that obsessed with profits, become one of the investors that they’re trying to attract in the first place.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:


“Of course, this makes you wonder why Warner Bros. was so unsure that there would be a market for this movie in the first place.”

Because the studios are horrendously risk averse. It makes me roll my eyes every time someone trots out the line that it’s risky financing movies and albums and thus we need copyright. Sure, it’s risky. But the studios aren’t taking that risk. The investors and backers get screwed (Michigan pension plan), while the studios get to funnel all the profits through their businesses as expenses.

out_of_the_blue says:

Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

“What’s impressive is that most of the high end items are sold out already — within just a few hours of the launch.”

This provides the only data you need for taxes being too low on The Rich. — And as measure of popularity, it flops. — This isn’t crowd-sourcing, it’s a status symbol for The Rich.

And Kickstarter scrapes off FIVE PERCENT for running a website. This notion is never going to go over with Joe Six-pack who works for a living, only with hipsters who get money just for being born.

Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up at same place!
Every “new business model” here requires first getting valuable products — including money and labor — for free.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

This provides the only data you need for taxes
being too low on The Rich.

I always chuckle at you assholes who think any instance where someone has money to spend on anything beyond just struggling to survive is evidence that they have too much and government needs to take it away.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

@btr1701 (profile), Mar 13th, 2013 @ 1:53pm

Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

This provides the only data you need for taxes
being too low on The Rich.

I always chuckle at you assholes who think any instance where someone has money to spend on anything beyond just struggling to survive is evidence that they have too much and government needs to take it away.

I’m sure that we can find an income number where you agree with me it’s too much. Even Rush Limbaugh said during the 90s, when Michael Eisner of Disney cashed in for I think $165 million that it was too much for any one person.

Let’s start at a billion dollars a year, or about $2,700,000 every day. Is that too much? Getting EVERY DAY including weekends more than half the people in a prosperous country will EARN in a LIFETIME of actual LABOR?

As I doubt you’ll answer — unless yourself as silly, but you’re welcome to try some dodges — then I’ll just conclude: See? You agree with me in principle.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

I bet you are excited about all the minimum wage hike talk, ootb. But I suppose everyone (including your paymasters) would think the hike in you minimum wage trolling/shilling is unjustified…especially if they’ve ever read one of you comments.

Esmertina says:

Re: Re: Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

Whoa there. You don’t have to be a 1%er to support this project — for ten bucks you get a pretty cool reward.

You don’t even have to be a 1%er to go for the high-ticket rewards. You just have to be a very, very committed fan who wants that reward very, very much.

Those private screenings for $5k? If 50 people each put in $100, they’ve got their screening. That’s how Amanda Palmer did it with the house party rewards on her Kickstarter. Suddenly fans who were complete strangers were pooling their money together to get a private show. There was so much interest, she had to add 10 more of them, finally capping it at 35 private house parties.

Kickstarter projects like this empower the 99% by giving us a voice in programming decisions. And YES, I would LOVE it if they also offered actual dividends as a reward, allowing the 99% to be actual investors. But you gotta realize, the dividends on $10 is gonna pay off less than the value of the shooting script, right? You’d have to be able to invest with enough money for the payoff to be worth it.

Now, if you’d just had a windfall and loved Veronica Mars more than anything, would you rather have a dream day of being on set with her and speaking a line in her movie? Or would you rather invest that money, putting it at risk on the hope of a dividend? It might be a tough call!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

If someone is able to legally earn that much then I think it is fine. What I don’t care for are the people that are playing the welfare system so that they can be lazy. Not talking about the people that actually need the welfare system. People like Gates setup foundations with much of their money in order to help people in areas they want to support. There are a few greedy people just as there are a few freeloaders and there isn’t anything to be done about that. The last thing we need is the government taking money away so it can use it to start more wars in other countries or give themselves raises.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

As of right now, the lowest tier that is sold out is $600. 50 individuals (possibly 50 groups of individuals pooling their money) are willing to spend $600 for
* A famous actress making a personalized 20 second video
* a signed movie poster
* a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack
* a digital version of the movie
* the limited-edition T-shirt
* a pdf of the shooting script

Your point appears to be that since 50 entities spent several weeks worth of groceries for some cool stuff that obviously taxes are too low on the rich. Your point was not that taxes are too low on the rich, or that some people make too much data. If that were your point then this doesn’t prove that at all. Since it doesn’t prove it, that couldn’t have been your point. I don’t think btr1701 could possibly agree with you in principle. Firstly, you don’t have any principles. Secondly, I’m sure you’d change the goal post again just like you just did.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Impressed with conspicuous waste, you 1-percenter!

I’m sure that we can find an income number
where you agree with me it’s too much.

As long as it’s obtained legally, we’re never going to agree on that number.

Let’s start at a billion dollars a year, or
about $2,700,000 every day. Is that too much?

Nope. If the person earned it legitimately, then it’s fine. Obviously if it’s the result of criminal activity, that’s a different story.

And more to the point, it’s not the proper function of government for it to be deciding how much of their own property its citizens are legitimately allowed to possess.

As I doubt you’ll answer — unless yourself as
silly, but you’re welcome to try some dodges —
then I’ll just conclude: See? You agree with
me in principle.

That sentence doesn’t even make any linguistic sense, but nevertheless, I don’t agree with you, either in principle or in particular and it’s particularly narcissitic of you to assume that I automatically would.

Anonymous Coward says:

I believe you answered the question in your last paragraph by the earlier comment “(but viewer-challenged)”. We have all seen critically acclaimed shows that fell by the wayside because of low viewership. Perhaps this “pilot” will succeed in gaining enough attention that the studio may reconsider future support for the series. If not WB, then perhaps another studio.

Anon says:

This is a very interesting development on many different levels. In to what’s listed in the article, we will also get to see the result of such a short release window. Will people still pay to see the movie on the big screen if they can a legal digital download so soon after the release? The response to this campaign is likely to persuade many movie theaters to show the movie anyway so it would give a meaningful picture of whether the arguments for a delayed DVD release still hold.

DannyB (profile) says:

Hollywood Accounting

So people who give money via Kickstarter to fund a WB movie, are basically putting money into WB’s pockets.

The movie will not be profitable. WB will set up a shell company that owns the movie. The shell will have to pay enormous fees to WB to ensure that the movie is never profitable no matter how large the box office take is.

After all, Star Wars still is not profitable all these decades later.

Yakko Warner (profile) says:

Re: Hollywood Accounting

They’re not giving money away for nothing (unless the project happens to get scrapped for one of a hundred different reasons Hollywood projects are cancelled) — they get the tickets or the posters or whatever their donation level earned them.

You could say the same thing about people who buy tickets to see the movie when it’s released.

Yeah, Hollywood accounting sucks, but this hardly makes anything better or worse.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Hollywood Accounting

So people who give money via Kickstarter to fund a WB movie, are basically putting money into WB’s pockets


That’s how it works.

You also get whatever tier’s worth of stuff you paid for. Plus, you get to see a movie made that probably wouldn’t have been made if you hadn’t supported it. Let WB worry about whether it will be profitable. Let people who are contracted to get some percentage of profits worry about it’s profitability. If you back this Kickstarter project, you get what you paid for. You’re not signing up for percentages of profits, so what do you care?

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Sooooo

I would easily drop 100$ or seeing Firefly return as long as that means I get HD digital copies of it once its done. Easily. Probably a little more if it came with enough other benefits. Firefly is quite easily my favorite series to ever have been and I even liked Serenity.

Nathan Fillion however is currently involved in Castle, which I also find to be a truly great series. I could only hope that he could work on both until Castle has run its course naturally.

If I had to pick though, Firefly it would be.

Esmertina says:


Well, seeing as how on day one they are already giving away more than 22,000 digital copies as rewards, with no guarantee that those people, the most loyal fans, will ever pay money to see the movie in theaters … I guess the answer is, yup.

You want free access to it forever? Put in $10 now. Your money goes directly into the production budget of the film, you never have to see it in a theater if you hate WB so much, and they don’t get a cent of profit from you.

Personally, I love that Rob, Kristin and WB are trusting that fans will see the movie in theaters anyway. And I hope they do, proving not only the fan demand for movies like this but also their profitability.

AB says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well ‘trusting’ may be a somewhat strong word here. They are asking for – and getting – proof before committing. Successful funding proves there will be a large enough percentage of the population willing to see it in theaters to make it worth the investment. Nor is the film going to be free; this is a business venture and there is no reason for it to be free. But otherwise I think you covered that pretty well.

Ouch. I defended WB. That hurt.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, you don’t. The final budget has not been announced, and “a movie” can cost anything from a few hundreds to a few hundred million dollars depending on what it is.

All we’ve learned today is that when Warner Brothers were unsure of this particular project, it took $2 million to agree to back it (assuming the information is correct and they don’t go back on agreement to finance the rest).

Hope Welsh (profile) says:

Wow--it's funded

I’m amazed that so many people are so off topic. This is about giving fans what they’ve wanted and proving to WB that they did.

Very seldom as “viewer voice” been listened to by any studio. This time, the fans win.

I didn’t donate to earn a dime–I want to see the movie. That’s my pay-off. Two hours of entertainment that I would not have otherwise had. Not too bad for ten bucks.

I’m just amazed at how many people are so bent out of shape–and so off target.

Any TV show or movie is made for two basic reasons: To entertain and to make money. It’s called business.

Someone posting about their mothers invention has absolutely nothing to do with the article here–nor do the majority of the comments.

I’m stupefied at the lack of comments supporting the idea. *shrug* though I guess I shouldn’t be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ships withing the US only.

Exactly my thoughts…
Open the doors and go world wide, with unregioned DVD and Blu-Ray and see what sort of money they get.

The US only thing is why I haven’t backed it, they already have enough (it’s funded), so why should I give to get nothing, and then buy it when it gets released in my country?

Anonymous Coward says:

Digital download - DRM? and just another Hollywood scam

It isn’t clear to me whether the digital download will be DRM locked – this isn’t specifically addressed anywhere in the Kickstarter. There is a reference to Flixster being the distribution platform for the download (Ultraviolet DRMmed format?), and as far as I can find out, this is a completely DRM platform. That is anathema to me when considering paying for such products up front.

I have backed multiple projects on Kickstarter, but ONLY if there is no DRM involved.

My initial reaction to this Kickstarter was that this is a fantastic idea, but the more I think about it, the more I see this as a way for Hollywood to gouge the “true believer” fans even further, firstly by getting money BEFORE any product is produced, then by getting MORE money AFTER the product is produced. In the past, fan petitions were enough to get projects greenlighted (eg the return of Futurama). Now Hollywood wants COLD HARD CASH from us up front before they do anything, and they appear to want to lock up what they produce in DRM anyway.

Perhaps the pension funds and cities they routinely rip off are getting harder and harder to get funds out of.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Digital download - DRM? and just another Hollywood scam

Apparently the “true believer” fans don’t mind being gouged.

But unfortunately this kind of fan-sourcing is only good for creating material that already has a fan base, meaning new and original material will have an even tougher time getting funded unless it’s on the strength of celebrity.

But at least there’s progress.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Digital download - DRM? and just another Hollywood scam

Baby steps. A major studio having to be convinced that the film has an audience in the first place isn’t going to suddenly turn around and let the movie be distributed in a consumer friendly way. They’re even applying regional restrictions on the damn funding!

Anyway, I agree but apparently the fans of the series don’t care. I hope future projects don’t have this sort of idiocy, but given that they’re promising delivery at almost the same time as the theatrical release, I don’t think we can ask too much right now. This is a good start, all things considered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Budget and crowdfunding

“$2,000,000 = Straight To Video”
I don’t think so…
Blair Witch Project $60,000 budget
Cube $35,000 budget
Eraserhead $20,000 budget
many many others

“Apparently the “true believer” fans don’t mind being gouged.”

True indeed. The crowd has spoken. Loudly and clearly. Let’s hope it is indeed a step in the right direction and not a further misstep into DRM hell.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Budget and crowdfunding

Paranormal Activity cost $15,000 and Saw cost $1.2 million, while the most recent direct-to-video Universal Soldier sequel cost $11.5 million.

Anyone who thinks there’s a direct link between quality or release as a direct result of its production budget is either only watching $200 million blockbusters, or is missing/ignoring a hell of a lot of other factors.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Budget and crowdfunding

“The fact is that the majority of $2 million movies do not get a wide theatrical release, even though some occasionally do.”

The majority of MOVIES do not get wide theatrical releases, full stop. Hell, many of them never get any kind of distribution whatsoever. Many sit on shelves for years, or released direct to TV or other markets.

The production budget has nothing to do with that, other than the fact that those movies financed at the top end are normally financed by the same studios who have direct control over that kind of distribution. Of course your movie produced by Sony is going to get distribution through Sony’s distributors. That has nothing to do with the production budget, only the fact that it wasn’t released independently of the studio system.

“This one probably will because it’s a name brand and it’s already got a $2 million head start.”

Which is the point of the story. WB were not going to agree to make this film. Now, the $2 million has been raised, showing that there’s a market. That’s the entire story – fans have been allowed to put their money where their mouth is and show there’s a fanbase. Whether is took $2 million or $200 million to do this is irrelevant to the story, although it clearly wasn’t considered much of a “name brand” before this happened.

Besides, it’s still not clear that this even is a $2 million movie. $2 million was the figure required to get WB to agree to allow the film to be made since they’re the rights holders. That quite possibly will not be the production budget, as now they’re on board WB may well put in additional money through traditional investment techniques. Thus, the “Kickstarter” name – it’s not just about getting projects 100% funded.

Ninja (profile) says:

I wonder. Suppose for a minute I want to produce a series and I know that counting actors, crew and all what’s needed for an episode I reach the conclusion that $200k is enough to produce one episode. Kickstarter doesn’t stop me from starting multiple projects so how would I fare if I started one project for every episode (considering the first one kicks off)? This could slowly fund an entire series the big studios dropped despite having enough demand.

AB says:

Re: Re:

I think it would be more headache then it was worth for both you and the backers. It would be more efficient to fund an entire season (or at least several episodes) at a time. But that’s just my opinion. The only way to be sure would be to try it and see.

Of course that assumes you already have some sort of following to turn to. If you are a complete unknown then you would be better off starting with a smaller budget while building up your audience. It’s always neat to watch the (figurative) expression on the face of a small but good artist as they launch their fourth or fifth kickstarter project and see the massive influx of new fans.

Akari Mizunashi (profile) says:

Warner Bros., et al, should be following closely just how fans pay for content.

Simply give them what they want, and damn, look at all the money flowing out.

I should also point out that, when I contributed yesterday, several of the $1000+ packages were already sold out.

Thanks, Hollywood, for proving you treat everyone as criminals first, customers second.

Go, Rob! Can’t wait to see the movie. I’ll bring the popcorn!

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