Last night I went out with some friends and had celebratory drinks about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter raising—what? $2.6 million dollars? In 24 hours? A tiny chunk of which was mine? Hooray! As I write this, it's now at $2.7 million, and it'll easily crack $3 million, and it still has 29 days left, so god knows where it'll end up. As a big Veronica Mars fan and as someone who's eager to see studios learn that not everything needs to be The Avengers, this is excellent, exciting news. While there are plenty of pieces online trying to figure out what the hell this particular Kickstarter means—if it's a filmmaking gamechanger or an anomaly—honestly, it's going to be a while before anyone has any idea how significant this particular thing will end up being.
But one thing that people won't stop talking about is what other failed shows they think should now be Kickstarted into movies. It makes me wince-shudder to think of how many times Joss Whedon's now going to have to respond to "Let's Kickstart Firefly!" assaults from well-meaning Browncoats. But here's the thing: Firefly already got Kickstarted, more or less, by Universal—which took a chance on a bomb of a TV show and turned it into a modestly budgeted, heavily advertised, widely released, well-reviewed feature film, Serenity. Serenity then spectacularly bombed, despite the frantic support of every single Firefly fan in the world. The moral, which nerds would be reminded of a few years later with Scott Pilgrim: Not everything is financially viable as a movie. Quality doesn't have anything to do with it—it's just that for a film to "hit," the sheer number of people who need to be interested and willing and able to see something, even for a modestly budgeted film, is mind-boggling huge.
Plenty of nerds are now dreaming of a Buffy movie, or a Freaks and Geeks movie, or another Stargate movie (good god), or Pushing Daisies movie, or a [YOUR FAVORITE UNFAIRLY CANCELED TV SHOW HERE] movie—and those are all roughly as destined to succeed as a Terra Nova movie. Let's break it down this way: As of this writing, about 45,000 people have chipped in to the Veronica Mars Kickstarter; if each of those people were willing to pay $10 to see a traditionally made, traditionally released Veronica Mars movie in a theater, you'd have.... $450,000. That's about what Silver Linings Playbook made... yesterday.
Don't get me wrong: I'd love to see Veronica Mars: The Movie actually come out in theaters and do insanely well, and I can think of few characters who are more deserving of a whole lot more stories told about them. But this particular movie isn't a movie so much as it's a huge, amazing bit of fan service (albeit one funded by those very fans): We've chipped in as a collective so that we can see something that we want to see, and now we'll get to see it. (What, exactly, we'll get to see up in the air: Keep in mind that back when it was airing, each 42-minute episode of Veronica Mars cost about $2 million.) Is it possible that Veronica Mars will hit huge and reach a whole lot of people who didn't watch the show, who didn't contribute to the Kickstarter, who weren't exposed to the Mars family and creepy ol' Logan before? Sure. But keep in mind that three seasons of Veronica Mars—a free show conveniently beamed directly into peoples' homes—weren't able to do that. Chances are that Veronica Mars will have a very, very limited theatrical release, then go straight to iTunes and pay-per-view and other video-on-demand sources—but before you think about how well it might do in the home video market, keep in mind that a huge portion of the people who're most interested in buying the movie are already getting a copy of it as one of their Kickstarter rewards.
I don't mean to shit on the parade, because this parade is awesome. We're actually getting a Veronica Mars movie! One that has all of the people who we want to be involved—Rob Thomas! Kristen Bell!—totally involved! This is fantastic. And yes, there's a possibility this particular Kickstarter will change how films are funded and distributed. But I don't think we're there yet—and as Hollywood is happy to demonstrate every single depressing week, it takes a loonnng time for studios and theaters to change how they do business. Veronica Mars might be the start of something. I hope it is. But whatever that something is, it's a ways off.
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