Has 'Veronica Mars' Ushered in a New Era of Movie Development?
Rob Thomas Plans a 'Veronica Mars' Behind-the-Scenes Documentary, Comic-Con Visit
Are we in a post-Veronica Mars Kickstarter era?
Three days into its campaign, the CW drama-turned-movie has shattered a number of crowd funding records: Fastest Kickstarter project to hit $1 million (4 hours, 24 minutes). Highest goal ever set in the four-year-old website’s history. And 10 hours after its launch on Wednesday morning, the proposed Veronica Mars movie became the fastest project to hit that $2 million mark. As of Thursday night, it had received more than $3.2 million in pledges, with 28 days to go.
The astounding achievement—especially for a show that averaged just under 2.5 million viewers during its 2004-07 run—has injected new life into the possibility of reviving other cult favorites. But can other shows follow the trail that Veronica Mars has now blazed?
“When I saw [the campaign] online, I said to my agent immediately, ‘Can we do this with Pushing Daisies or Wonderfalls?’ “ says Bryan Fuller, creator of the the two short-lived fantasy dramedies that aired on ABC and Fox, respectively. “And he said, ‘Pushing Daisies is going to take a lot more than $2 million to make into a movie.’ “
From Star Trek to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, many of the properties that have attracted the most obsessive fanbases have involved sci-fi and action elements that drive up production cost. By contrast, Veronica Mars was a noir-inflected drama, set in present-day southern California and starring Kristen Bell as a teenage private eye. “Veronica Mars hinges on its charming cast and writing and isn’t as effects-laden and dependent on huge productions,” Fuller says. “You can make a $2 million or $4 million Veronica Mars movie. For something like Pushing Daisies, which is more elaborate visually and also would require extensive prosthetics and those sorts of complicating production elements, it’s a little more daunting.”
Fuller estimates that a film adaptation of his whimsical romance, which starred Lee Pace as a baker who could resurrect the dead and cost $3 million per episode, would require closer to $10 million to pull off, in part because the iconic sets that were struck when the series was cancelled in 2009 would have to be rebuilt. And major studios like Warner Brothers, which owns the rights to both Daisies and Mars, are wary of pouring any more money into prolonging the life of TV shows they view as failed ventures.
“If I had the power and the rights, I would have done it myself already,” says Zachary Levi, star of the spy comedy Chuck, another Warner Bros.-owned series for which fans staged perennial "save our show" campaigns in its five seasons on the bubble at NBC. Levi believes that studios would do well to market revivals of niche properties directly to the fans.
“So much of the budget goes into advertising,” he says. “If we came out with a Chuck movie now, I don't know how many more people who didn't watch Chuck would watch this movie. You don't need to do a theatrical release. You're doing it for the fans. You'd want to do an online release, and if people want to pay extra dollars to get the DVD and Blu-ray, you can make money from those purchases. I would keep overhead as low as possible [with] social marketing.”