Veronica Mars Set For Historic Simultaneous Cinema And Online Release

Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell

Veronica Mars was never going to be an ordinary movie. As a feature length addendum to the TV show that was cancelled in 2007, it came into being by shattering fundraising records on the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. It defied the odds by drawing back the original cast members, impressed nay-sayers with the timely release of a trailer that suggests a film entirely in-keeping with the spirit of the show, and on March 14th 2014, it will make history as Warner Bros.’ first simultaneous release in cinemas and online.

The release date itself puts the finished film into the world one year after the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign launched. Aware of the long-standing demands of devoted fans of their show, star Kristen Bell and creator Rob Thomas had convinced Warner Bros to produce the film if they raised $2 million through crowdfunding. Using social media to spread the word of their cunning plan, their modest goal was quickly surpassed, and by the end of the campaign, 91,000 Veronica Mars fans – known as ‘Marshmallows’ – had pledged a combined total of $5.7 million.

Now complete, the film cost a little over $6 million. Some of the Kickstarter funds are being used for posters and rewards promised to those that pledged, and Warner Bros. are funding the rest. Advertising is being limited entirely to online promotional campaigns, and within AMC theatres – the chain that will carry the bulk of the US theatrical release.

There has historically been much tension around the issue of a ‘theatrical window’ for cinema releases, with exhibitors staunchly defending the policy of having a minimum of 90 days between the arrival of a film in cinemas, and its wider distribution through DVD and online streaming. It is argued that the eagerness of studios to recoup their investment through home entertainment puts the cinema experience at risk. On the flip side, the priority for cinemas – the big chains of multiplexes in particular – is to fill seats, which means only films that are well-promoted stand a chance of gaining the attention, and commitment, of exhibitors. This is why small, independent films still struggle to find space on the big screen.

The case of Veronica Mars actually draws these different factions together. Being an almost entirely crowdfunded production, it is essentially a small, independent movie. At the same time, it resides in the hulking shadow of Warner Bros. Studios, and benefits from all the promotional and financial support that position provides. Having a giant studio in their corner means that Veronica Mars gets access to cinema screens it would otherwise not have, as Warner Bros. side-step any ‘theatrical window’ discussion by simply renting out the venues. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, AMC’s Vice President of Special and Alternative Content, Nikkole Denson-Randolph, explained:

“On projects like this, where we know we have a partner with the resources to promote the film, and an easily targetable audience, we will rent theatres out.”

The fact that the studio is hiring the venues directly, as opposed to working in partnership with the exhibitors, means that Warner Bros. keep 100% of ticket sales. It is fair to say that this deal, combined with a simultaneous online release means the studio is very much hoping that their faith in ‘Marshmallows’ around the world will be rewarded, and that the devoted fanbase will make the venture a success.

As Jeff Goldstein, Executive Vice President of Distribution for Warner Bros, said to The Wall Street Journal:

“If we extend beyond that, it’ll be gravy.”

Veronica Mars will be released in US theatres and online on March 14th 2014, with Digital Spy recently confirming that selected Empire and Showcase cinemas across the UK and Ireland will also be screening the film.